The Xcerts

There Is Only You

Written by: TL on 13/11/2014 17:28:44

Considering that their debut album is only five years old, you wouldn't think that the young Scottish rock trio The Xcerts has existed since 2001, only changing drummers from Ross McTaggart to Tom Heron in 2006. Despite garnering positive recognition pretty much anywhere you can read about them, the group has remained a bit of a secret with a disconnected following, a fact the band seems intent to change with new album "There Is Only You", their third effort which sees them evolve their consistently recognisable style once more. From the youthful angst and windy, anthemic melodies of the debut "In The Cold Wind We Smile" the band changed nuances already with the quickly succeeding "Scatterbrain" from 2012, where they found a liking for Pixies-style lethargic, noisy poppiness and mixed it with input from renowned Brand New producer Mike Sapone - And now, on "There Is Only You", you sense that the trio is trying to temper both atmospheres into a more polished and focused vessel to carry them onwards away from obscurity.

The Xcerts are a difficult band to write about however, because their stylistic nuances are just that - nuances - and the real story about them is that they're unusually consistent, expert songwriters. It reads like a plain fact in writing, but it sounds vivid already on first song "Live Like This", which gallops straight ahead in the verse - showing off the sound of the new album's pleasantly booming guitar distortion right away - yet halves its tempo in time for an instantly engaging chorus and then goes for a mellow, thoughtful middle-eight before leaping back up to a chorus repetition you can definitely live with at this point. Along with "Kevin Costner" and "Teenage Lust", these songs feel like grounded versions of the type of songs on the band's first album, only now The Xcerts are mature enough to relate and encourage, more so than wallow and despair. The urgency is diminished, but by such a small degree that there's still plenty to listen for.

Then there are songs like the singles "Shaking In The Water" and "Pop Song", and really also "Kick It" and "I Don't Care", which lend the band's personal frustrations to a distorted pop-rock, complete with sentimental "wuuh-uh"s in call/response patterns with the hooks. If Weezer were Scottish and wrote songs with actual emotion in them, this is what it could sound like. The difference is clear however, in the lead vocals of guitarist Murray Macleod, who seems to have the distanced self-awareness of an indie-kid in one moment, yet the heart-on-sleeve delivery of an emo singer in the next. The ginger frontman throws his capable and recognisable vocals around in ways where you feel like each syllable is carefully charged with both power and emotion so as to maximise the dynamic of the song. It's not exclusively in his clear Scottish lines you find such an expertise however, rather the band's playful yet carefully organised sense of timing is apparent all over this record - and indeed the former records as well. The Xcerts' songs may fall into relatively predictable patterns overall, yet their movements seize the listener consistently, either via the engaging vocals or changes in the tempo, or simply by arranging elegantly when the instruments are played quietly or loudly.

In the world of rock albums, it's a reality that all but the most perfect releases have clear highlight tracks surrounded by an often less memorable supporting cast, yet it is a sign of a properly well-written record when picking favourites becomes difficult, because the gap between the good and the great is hard to pinpoint, and because even the non-singles stand up and deliver when the full album is given attention. That's the kind of album "There Is Only You Is". The songs already mentioned deliver hooks that act as entry points extremely willingly, but the remaining lot are solid to a point many other bands can only look up to, and yet at no point does it feel like you're listening to a shallowly calculated construct - The Xcerts seem to have something worth saying at the heart of each tune. Truthfully, the urgent, relateable angst of their first record isn't quite here, nor is the enigmatic sense of "fuck everything" that characterised "Scatterbrain", but if The Xcerts have tried to make a more approachable album to give more listeners a doorway to their world, then they have sacrificed very little edge in the process, while retaining enough of their trademark authenticity and songcraft to join a handful of new British bands that prove that catchy melodic rock records can offer more coherency, than just a few hollow, hastily written choruses.


Download: Live Like This, Shaking In The Water, Pop Song
For The Fans Of: Twin Atlantic, Biffy Clyro, Idlewild, Lower Than Atlantis

Release date 03.11.2014
Raygun Music

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