Release Date: Mar 24, 2017
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Dance-Rock
If ever there was an argument for not rushing your debut album, then Formation are surely it. Having broken through as, essentially, a living, breathing shrine to James Murphy (early single ‘All The Rest Is Noise’ basically borrowed the melody from LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ wholesale), time has given the London outfit a chance to get the obvious reference points out of their system and flesh them out into something more nuanced. That’s not to say that the influence of the dance-punk innovator doesn’t still linger across ‘All The Powerful People’, but it’s one of many - from the baggy raves of the Haçienda to the spat-out lyrics of grime’s underground - that fit together to form an altogether more intoxicating proposition.
"I don't think we're a political band, but if someone's gonna start bringing bulls**t you've got to stand up for yourselves," Will Ritson, frontman of south London dance-punk agitators Formation, told NME in 2015. Two years later, as certain world leaders seem hellbent on razing society to the ground, the five-piece's debut album is a mini manifesto on harnessing your own power, pooling it with your mates' and taking on anything the world throws at you. The powerful people, Formation argue on the track of the same name, are not May or Trump, but the rest of us.
Magnify in deeper and snatches of 80s post punk and 70s funk can be found simmering barely below the surface. Formed with the initial idea of creating three minute long explorations in pop, the outcome of Formation 's efforts is a seamless stream of highly energised music often indebted to dance scenes as much as anything more traditionally indie. There's a dark undercurrent to "Pleasure"; a punk-funk influence lies heavily at its foundations to such a degree that it sounds like an updated version of The Rapture after having been given an electronic makeover.
"We fall in love with the same old lie." We're in a funny quandary. Mankind's bullshit detectors have never been so finely tuned, and yet, at the same time, bullshit itself has never been so profuse. Wading through it is how we hit our 10,000 steps a day. Knowledge is now elitism. Feminism is now a ….
A s the career of rappers the Mitchell Brothers illustrates, an endorsement from Mike Skinner is no guarantee of success. The Streets star's current favourites, south London band Formation - founded by twins Will and Matt Ritson - might have been a more enticing proposition had they emerged in the early 00s. Their snarling debut album, all cowbells and warped grooves, is competent punk-funk that rarely deviates from the model established by the Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, whose vocals singer Will slavishly imitates.
If you were to subscribe to the theory that, at this point in time, everything's a remix, then Formation's debut might seem like a Frankenstein's monster stitched together from the remains of 2000s-era dance-punk bands. Formation were already drawing comparisons to LCD Soundsystem, a comparison they have embraced rather than worked to shed, but on Look at the Powerful People the bandmembers have expanded their homages, with track after track recalling a slightly different form of indie/dance nostalgia. First track "Drugs" has alarm bells written all over it, and not just for the glaringly countercultural title; it betrays the promising percussion and direct-to-funky bass as soon as lead vocalist Will Ritson presents his finest second-rate James Murphy impression.
Indie-pop quintet Formation was formed by brothers Will and Matt Ritson in Wimbeldon, South London in 2013. Following the release of a number of EPs, the group quickly built a strong reputation, applauded for their fusion of styles and influences, and were rewarded with supporting slots on tour alongside Foals and Jagwar Ma. They were subsequently signed to major label Warner Bros.
Let's start with the name: whether it's Hillary Clinton or some clueless piano bro posting covers on YouTube, many have been accused of co-opting the unimpeachable power of "Formation" under dubious pretenses. For Matt and Will Ritson, it is at least plausible that they've never heard the song. On Look at the Powerful People, Formation sound directly teleported from a time when Destiny's Child was still Beyoncé's main source of income.