Release Date: Apr 18, 2011
Record label: Polydor
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Purveyors of the "anything goes" approach to pop music, typewriter-sampling four-piece Guillemots could be forgiven for suffering an identity crisis following the surprising housewife audience lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield gained with his recent John Lewis-promoted Top Ten cover version of Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman. " Third album Walk the River may be less avant-garde than their Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut Through the Windowpane, and less chaotic than their '80s Brit-pop-inspired sophomore effort Red, but its 12 tracks show that the band isn't ready to embrace the cocoa and slippers brigade just yet. "The Basket" is an ambitious slice of psychedelic pop complete with fuzzy guitars, eerie Theremins, and an anthemic Kings of Leon-esque woah-woah chorus, the latter of which also appears on the thunderous garage rock of "Ice Room," while a flurry of chaotic electronic bleeps adds a neat twist to the Wall of Sound-inspired Motown beats and soaring girl group harmonies of "Tigers.
Singer Fyfe Dangerfield calls Guillemots' third album "music to be heard across the night sky", which captures precisely its expansive beauty. Having got a yen for sparser songs out of his system with last year's solo album, he's returned with a zeal for large-scale emotion, and Walk the River is laden with it. It abounds in dramatic word-pictures, possibly pertaining to the end of the romance with the woman who inspired his solo LP ("Walk the river like a hunted animal", "When I see it I hear crashing drums") and sky-high choruses, arranged into some of the most sumptuous songs Guillemots have ever created.
As the depths of winter closed in around a fading relationship in the December of 2005, I chanced upon a song like nothing I’d heard before. I remember being wordlessly stunned as I sat in a traffic jam while the snow and fumes of Newcastle swirled around me. The song was ‘Trains to Brazil’; the band were Guillemots. What sparked inside was a deep affection for this strange little outfit with an astonishing ability to blend and simmer disparate ingredients together until little explosions of joy and melancholy burst in your ears.
In a recent video, Guillemots lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield and drummer Greig Stewart play live "in a little woodland, by a disused railway line" in north London. Wrens and robins chirp. Standing against a graffiti-emblazoned gray brick wall, the scruffily bearded Dangerfield strums an acoustic guitar casually, almost haphazardly. Stewart, wearing a pair of white-rimmed shades you might see on one of Biff's henchmen in Back to the Future, runs his drumstick along the bars of an iron gate-- gently, almost tenderly.
On this, their third album proper, [a]Guillemots[/a] have walked away from their twinkly, twee, typewriter-sampling former selves, instead going for [a]Flaming Lips[/a] electro swooshes ([b]‘The Basket’[/b]) and [b]‘Melancholy Hill’[/b] refrains ([b]‘I Must Be A Lover’[/b]). The voice of lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield (yes, he of that John Lewis advert) is husky and doleful – the anti-Chris Martin. [a]Neil Young[/a]-indebted, the band have described the tracks as needing to sound like they were “sleepwalking their way onto tape”.
When Guillemots frontman Fyfe Dangerfield embarked on his solo jaunt ‘Fly Yellow Moon’ at the end of 2009, he claimed he was spurred by a cache of songs that wouldn’t fit his band. These new raw compositions were not the stuff of 2006’s ‘Through The Windowpane’, with its kitchen sink bashalong ‘Trains To Brazil’ and epic blowout ‘Sao Paolo’; and they certainly wouldn’t have suited ‘Red’, the brash, brassy, even R&B-influenced 2008 album that aped Duran Duran on ‘Get Over It’ and Timbaland on ‘Big Dog’. When the solo set emerged you could see his point - fragile, sensitive melodies backed by strings and drum machine patterns were a sort of retreat, and just right for a man alone exposing his heart.
An ambitious third LP which disappointingly fails to fully connect with the listener. Tom Hocknell 2011 Guillemots’ slow-burning debut, Through the Windowpane, embraced so many influences from rock, folk, pop and jazz that it was hard to properly position the band. Despite this magpie approach they were nominated for 2006’s Mercury Prize, and 2008’s Red reached the UK top 10.