Oh those loveably pretentious wankers at the NME. Sometimes you just want to give them a big old hug and caress the burden of tedious credibility from their weary shoulders while giving them the charisma equivalent of a back sack n crack- stripping away all that matted musical prejudice as they squat on all fours until there’s nothing but shiny, smooth open mindedness underneath.
It’s probably what General Fiasco would like to do if they ever met the charming scamp who decided to give their 2010 debut album ‘Buildings’ three stars out of ten and labeled it as ‘instantly forgettable’. The bizarrely short review (110 words) oozed with the kind of lazy knee jerk derision and ‘pop is shit’ mentality which usually only serves to make the reviewer look bad rather than the item being reviewed. You get the distinct impression that whoever got paid (no doubt a fair amount) to review it spent 30 seconds whizzing through each track before throwing it in the bin and having a massive wank off to some obscure Led Zepellin B-Side.
The frustrating thing about it all is that General Fiasco are really quite brilliant. Hailing from Bellaghy in Northern Ireland, the four piece write songs with infectious hooks, melodic verses and fist punching choruses which instantly grab your attention and refuse to let go. With three guitarists and a drummer, they may give off the appearance of being just yet another of those landfill indie bands that clogged up the charts between 2004-2008, but when you bother to actually give their songs the attention they deserve, it becomes glaringly apparent that they’re anything but.
The reason that so many reviewers seem to have missed the point is that they can’t seem to see past the instruments that the band play, and so review them as a purely indie act. They’re not. In an interview last year with music blog All Gone Pop, frontman Owen Strathern was in no doubt as to the bands pop leanings:
‘I think…all the best bands have got a pop sentiment about them, and that’s what’s good about it, it has got a pop melody. It is sort of what people classed pop as- something catchy, something hooky, and no matter how left-field or indie or weird something is, the big band will have big hooks in it…something that will make you want to listen to it again and catch your ear’
Which is why you get the feeling that reviews like the NME’s are less to do with professional critique, and more to do with pure unabashed snobbery. Read ‘low I.Q hooks’ in aforementioned ‘review’ as ‘poppy hooks’ and you get the general idea. In truth the songs on Buildings are a group of finely crafted indie pop gems which dispense with tiring self conscious attempts at being cool and simply look to give the listener 45 minutes of raucous, chanting fun. Take ‘Ever So Shy’ as a prime example.
Their new E.P ‘Waves’ – released last week- contains more of the same ball grabbing hooks and anthemic choruses which fans of the band have already fallen in love with, but this time there seems to be more maturity in both the sound and lyrics. ‘The Age That You Start Losing Friends’ in particular demonstrates not only General Fiasco at their concise, indie pop best, but also their ability to write lyrics which speak to and for their audience.
Add to this Strathern’s charismatic Irish twang as he coo’s, chants and yelps through each song together with the edgy production which makes it feel like the band are playing directly in front of you (complete with sweaty bouncing strangers and flying cups of piss) and you have a band who are anything but forgettable.