Release Date: Jun 3, 2016
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Considering the attention around what is after all a debut album – something to do with the identity of the protagonists, we’re guessing – Minor Victories is surprisingly and deceptively slow-burning, its many cadences revealing themselves over a number of listens. Not in a Mogwai fashion (nor Slowdive, nor Editors for that matter); instead, each strand, every icy shard of synth and pedal-blasted guitar arrive submerged – almost restrained – Rachel Goswell’s vocals fern-like in the breeze. Pieced together over a number of months by Editors guitarist Justin Lockey and his brother James, Stuart Braithwaite and Goswell contributing remotely, it’s a record that speaks of collectivism but also distance.
Though the term "supergroup" is used so often that it's nearly meaningless, there's no denying that the members of Minor Victories boast impressive résumés. The legacies of Stuart Braithwaite's work with Mogwai and Rachel Goswell's time with Slowdive are well-known, while Justin Lockey made a name for himself with Editors in the 2010s, and the talents of his brother James range from music to filmmaking. More importantly, the band's self-titled debut album proves they can combine their talents in ways that sound organic.
The word ‘supergroup’ can sometimes send shivers down the spine, but the formation of Minor Victories makes sense both on paper and on record – Editors guitarist Justin Lockey had the intention to create an extreme noise EP, recruiting Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite and Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell. Whilst that EP never materialised, his vision has led to the formation of something altogether more enticing. The album begins with a commanding confidence and swagger, ‘Give Up The Ghost’ proving to be a real statement of intent, led by crashing drums and a thumping melody.
Minor Victories are the kind of super-group whose roster feels as if it was assembled in a fan’s imagination; a greedy ideal cooked up in stoned conversation rather than a naturally occurring collision of individual talents. Possibly too good to be true, like the Travelling Wilburys of atmospheric British rock, except in this case the execution equals, even outweighs, the heft of the potential behind it. There are a few not-so-small triumphs behind the making of this auspicious debut.
Crossovers are all the rage, no matter what the media. Audiences lose their minds when they can see Captain America and Iron Man duke it out on the screen, or when Taylor Swift parades a line of musicians and athletes on stage. It’s a natural reaction, seeing the things we love coming together. For indie rock devotees, Minor Victories is one of those blockbuster events, combining the forces of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, and Editors’ Justin Lockey and his filmmaker brother James Lockey.
The concept behind Minor Victories is rather interesting but it shouldn’t talk over what this cinematic supergroup-of-sorts have produced at the first time of asking. Usually when you hear of a band communicating and constructing exclusively in individual isolation, it’s a reflection of a shattered state, the final result often unavoidably lacking. In the case of Minor Victories – a makes-sense natural fit of Rachel Goswell (Slowdive, Mojave 3), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), Justin Lockey (Editors) and his brother and creative partner James – such potential barriers instead make strong foundations which prop up an arresting debut missive.
Guitarist Justin Lockey of Editors wanted to make a noise record. How that transmogrified into this grandiose project with his brother James, Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai and Rachel Goswell from shoegazers Slowdive is still unclear. The band hadn’t all met together until recently, instead recording over the ether. While that doesn’t generally show in the production or playing, them hammering it out over a few bottles of red might have led to some more enticing material than the landfill indie and at times almost Euro-goth fare of the album’s first half.
Minor Victories have wisely shied away from billing themselves as a supergroup, a term that implies a degree of star power they can’t quite deliver. They prefer the much more neutral descriptor “band.” Still, it’s impossible to separate the group from their other projects. Any band featuring Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, and Editors guitarist Justin Lockey (along with his brother James) is going to carry certain expectations, and on their self-titled debut they live up to each and every one of them.The album’s creation involved a lot of emailing back and forth between members before some of them had even met, sort of a Postal Service situation only with a lot more CC’s.
There’s a soft orchestral sound on the song “Higher Hopes” by Minor Victories, a lilting part that feels like a closely held secret. It’s mesmerizing in its simplicity, hinting at a coming storm. It’s also the last song on a wildly uneven but ultimately fulfilling release that almost sounds like two different albums, both of them good for different reasons.
Author rating: /10.
If you would've asked Carl and I that we'd still be writing this feature a few months ago, we would've been surprised. But we just can't help ourselves, seeing as this year has been exceptionally rich in terms of album releases. So how did we fare with our monthly "leftovers" this time around? Well ….
Supergroup is one of those terms that even if you don’t want ro use it, I think the word is dumb, you end up using it in a review. Yeah, you could call Minor Victories a supergroup (but please don’t lump ‘em in with Chickenfoot) I mean, it’s just a word, right? This relatively new UK band consists of Rachel Goswell from Slowdive/Mojave 3, Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai and two guys from the band The Editors, Justin and James Lockey (who I’ve never listened to before). Not exactly sure how these four stumbled into a room together but….