THE ANNUALS – Be He Me (Ace Fu)
The Annuals might be something of an unknown quantity to most people, as this disc has not yet been released in the UK, but I read an article about the band in NME and was intrigued enough to send off to America for this album. What clinched it for me was the comparisons with Arcade Fire and Flaming Lips, and while opener ‘Brother’ does have a Fire vibe to it, it is also most surely the band’s own work. Other songs have hints of Grandaddy or Mercury Rev, so from the start their influences are impeccable. ‘Dry Clothes’ isn’t as linear a song as ‘Brother’, with its quite normal beginning turning into a twisted chant of the title towards the end. ‘Complete, Or Completing’ is one of the tracks on their debut UK EP (but not on the vinyl, unfortunately), and its loping six minutes showcase most of their influences in one song. High on that list is Brian Wilson – leader Adam Baker’s self-confessed all time favourite artist – and so you can guarantee that however experimental the song might become there will be an underlying harmonic structure to it which will see it through. So ‘Carry Around’ might have weird instruments and offkilter verses, but it then delivers a glorious chorus, which makes it an ideal track for their EP. ‘Chase You Off’ and ‘Bleary-Eyed’ are two more of their great, off-beat rockers, and the softer side of the band can be heard in ‘Fair’. ‘Ida, My’ is perhaps their most Fire type song, with its gentle opening passage, leading into the weird noises that herald the slow build up to an emotional climax. Since Arcade Fire first burst onto the scene a couple of years ago they are now cited as influences on many new bands, but the Annuals are one of the few that can claim them as an inspiration, and use that to create music that is entirely their own. Watch out for the plaudits starting to fly when this album eventually sees the light of day in this country.