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Strawhouses - These Are the Willing

  by Richard Lewis

published: 23 / 7 / 2011

Strawhouses - These Are the Willing
Label: Strawhouses
Format: CD


Ambitous debut album from dark Liverpool-based indie rockers Strawhouses, which, taking war as it principal theme, they have self-released for £1

Released on their own label for a solitary £1, Strawhouses revive the ancient art of album-as-talking-point in a single stroke. The product of "four years of songwriting" according to lead singer Paul Donnelly, ‘These are the Willing’ understandably doesn’t feel thrown together or weighed down with filler to get to the magic forty minute marker. Produced by Jon Withnall, whose previous clients include Coldplay and Elbow, the emotive rock of both bands is juxtaposed with the dark undertow of angst merchants such as Interpol and Muse. Opening with ‘Not in my Name’, one of the most instantly recognisable (and important) protest slogans in recent years, a low key vocal is offset by a deep bassline and thudding drums, before ascending to the chorus. ‘These are the Willing’, which is up next, is possibly an oblique reference to Dubya’s ‘Coalition of the Willing’ and continues the anti-war theme. Citing early 80s underground rockers Killing Joke makes sense in the tribal rumble of their drumbeats, Danny Quirk steering the songs around their complex structures. The band’s music mirrors the frustration in Donnelly’s vocals, stop-starting, increasing-decreasing in tempo, racking up the unease as it progresses. The straight-up indie rock of ‘Batteries’ is given an additional twist by the rhythm section’s stop-start manoeuveres, lifting it above standard indie fare. ‘The Way of the World’ marries the undertow of Franz Ferdinand’s off kilter indie disco to blazing guitar work, giving guitarist Chris Smith room to stretch his legs, the track concluding in a twisting axe coda. Possibly the poppiest track on the LP, ‘Bonestalkers’ up next is similarly melodic, striding forth on a Coffee and TV style strum before switching gears to explode into life for its chorus. This, along with the title track evokes memories of early Suede, Donnelly’s vocals recalling Brett Anderson at his most anguished. Extremely well-sequenced, the tracks offering changes of mood and tempo as the LP progresses, the band clearly thought long and hard about the track listing before committing it to CD. Amongst the unease, ‘Sunlight’, fittingly enough provides some respite, trundling along on a gentle military drumbeat and music box arpeggio. Returning to darker terrain, ‘Malaise’ almost stands as a manifesto, the taut riffage matching Jonny Greenwood guitar squalls with rumbling drums to excellent effect. Learning from Radiohead’s dynamic energy, without overdoing it to land in twiddly math rock territory, Strawhouses pack enough stop-start. One of the strongest cuts present, lead single ‘Train Wreck’ combines Donnelly’s yelp with Michael Bradshaw’s sinewy lead bassline that builds slowly before the melodrama of the anthemic chorus. Concluding track ‘D-Day’, returning to the war theme is more subdued, a resigned shrug compared to the drama of earlier. Their ambition to scale the same heights as their heroes is not to be faulted, These are the Willing represents a strong opening salvo from the band and will most likely lead towards bigger stages for the quartet. Strawhouses’ These are the Willing is available from the band’s website for £1.50 (inc p&P) http://strawhouses.tv/index.html

Track Listing:-
1 Not In My Name
2 These Are The Willing
3 Unplug The Beast
4 Batteries
5 The Way Of The World
6 Bonestalkers
7 Sunlight
8 Malaise
9 Runaway Child
10 Train Wreck
11 DDay

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