# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Iliketrains - Elegies to Lessons Learnt

  by John Clarkson

published: 19 / 10 / 2007

Iliketrains - Elegies to Lessons Learnt
Label: Beggar's Banquet
Format: CD


Rewarding and engaging first album proper from Leeds post-rock group iLIKETRAiNS, which focuses on some of history's often forgotten characters

On ‘Progress Reform’, their six song mini debut album of last year, Leeds group iLiKETRAiNS revealed a fascination with some of the often more obscure traits of history and its heroes and anti-heroes. There were songs about 70’s chess champion Bobby Fischer (‘A Rook for Bobby’) ; Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1912 (‘Terra Nova’), and the then Chairman of the British Railways Board Dr Richard Beeching’s controversial 1963 report which lead to Britain's railway lines being pruned back by a quarter and its number of stations halved over the next decade (‘The Beeching Report’). ‘Elegies to Lessons Learnt’, the group’s debut album proper, extends on this theme, singer and guitarist David Martin’s gravelly vocals exposing over ten songs a motley assortment of some of the past’s largely forgotten criminals, eccentrics and madmen and the occasional act of selfless courage. The funereal opening number, ‘We All Fall Down’, tells of the self-sacrifice of Eyam, a village near Sheffield, which cut itself from the outside world for fourteen months in 1665 and 1666 rather than allow a plague and then a second infestation of disease-infected rats to spread beyond its boundaries. 'The Deception’, the just released second single from ‘Elegies to Lessons Learnt’, is about adventurer Donald Crowhurst who in 1969 faked his leadership in a round-the-world yacht race and then as it came towards its conclusion is believed to have drowned after throwing himself over the side of his vessel. ‘Death of an Idealist’ meanwhile narrates the tale of disgraced Labour MP and convicted fraudster, John Stonehouse, who faked his own death in 1974 by leaving a pile of his clothes on a Miami beach. ‘Elegies to Lessons Learnt’ builds on the wintry post-rock sound of 'Progress Reform'. Songs in the first half of the album start slowly, David Martin and bassist Alistair Bowis’ chiming guitars filtering together with keyboardist Guy Bannister’s shimmering buzzes of keyboard. They are then pushed upwards by the crescendoing drum work of Simon Fogal, currently one of indie rock’s finest drummers, into great epic washes and slabs of sound at the conclusion of each song. It is all exquisitely played and performed, iLKETRAiNS' melancholic music and structured guitars and keyboards as sublimely gorgeous and beautiful as they are mournful. Martin's gruff vocals are meanwhile poignant and compassionate, both the delusional Crowhust, who left behind a log book ("This is the devil's game/This is a holiday."), and the shamed Stonehouse, who was caught by police a month after his disappearance trying to establish a new life for himself with his mistress in Australia ("This is a breakdown/You are a cancer/This will be the death of me"), shown to have committed their acts of folly out of madness and desperation, rather than any real sense of evil. It is never anything but compelling, but then just as one is starting to think that iLIKETRAiNS have hit on a winning formula early on with 'Progress Reform' and then decided to simply build on it throughout 'Elegies to Lessons to Lessons', the music starts to blossom and the blueprint to change. The sepulchral-toned, sinister-in-sound 'Come Over', the finest moment in iLiKETRAiNS' canon to date, tells of young East German guard Conrad Schumann who jumped over the Berlin Wall as it was being built in 1961 to join his wife, but unable to ever reconcile himself to the fact that he had abandoned the rest of his family and friends committed suicide in 1998 ("So here's to fallen friends and fallen walls/I severed my roots and the bow did break"). Orchestral and classical in tone, it finds the band experimenting with eerie sweeps of strings and brass. The next track, the penultimate song, 'Spencer Bright' and the album’s first single, too breaks new ground. About the unfortunate protagonist of the title who in 1812 was the only ever British Prime Minister to be assassinated, and told from the point of view of his murderer John Bellingham, it is spread out over a large nine minutes, the extra running time allowing the band to crank their amps up yet higher and for it to finish in an impressive and enormous barrage of white noise and distortion. As the final track, ‘Death is the End’, shows, iLiKETRAiNS’ viewpoint is essentially atheistical. Once you’re gone, there is no guarantee of any afterlife, and the only way you can be accounted for is how history remembers you, if at all. A stark piano ballad, softer in tone than the rest of the album, and the only non-biography in the whole piece, it hints at a possible future direction for the band if they ever get tired of creating epic soundscapes and concludes with Martin pensively chanting the chorus and title of the song over and over, joined by a choir which consists of various other luminaries on the Leeds music scene including Wu from art rockers This Et Al and singer-songwriter Napoleon III. Despite iLikETRAiNS’ bleakness and their religious convictions, ‘Elegies to Lessons Learnt’ comes across as an ultimately surprisingly spiritual and optimistic work. Its essential message seems to be that for all the same mistakes it makes and continues to make from generation to generation, mankind, with its occasional capacity for goodness as well as stupidity, will continue to survive. Achingly humane, ‘Elegies to Lessons Learnt’ makes both rewarding and captivating listening.

Track Listing:-
1 We All Fall Down
2 Twenty Five Sins
3 The Deception
4 The Voice of Reason
5 Death of an Idealist
6 Remnants of an Army
7 We Go Hunting
8 Come Over
9 Spencer Perceval
10 Epiphany
11 Death Is the End

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