Album Review: Prides – The Way Back Up

By on Tuesday, 7th July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Prides - The Way Back Up album coverFlick on Radio 1 during the daytime, and synthesiser-led music is all over it, whether it be with an urban bent or a dance one, or a combination of the two. Stewart Brock, Callum Wiseman and Lewis Gardner of Prides prefer to keep their synthpop straight up, giving a nod back to the ’80s synthesiser bands of yore. Ah yes, such an innocent time…

While their debut album for Island Records ‘The Way Back Up’ has been a long time coming, fans of the Glaswegian band who have seen them on their tours the last 2 years will be very happy with the results. Well, at least with about half of them. The album opens with the buzzy, anthemic ‘I Should Know Better’, a song in which Brock sings, “I should be letting you know / that you should be singing with me”. Swoon. I mean, I don’t know a girl who *doesn’t* want that being sung to her. Good start.

Make no bones about it, the previously released songs that appear on ‘The Way Back Up’ can’t be beat and should be the focal point of your listening to this LP. ‘Messiah’, considered as the lead single to be released on the 6th of July although a promo video for the tune was issued in April 2014 and we previously featured it here on TGTF, follows a recurring formula of high energy, roof-raising, fist-pumping big beats with an overture of love (or an announcement of a breakup) being presented in the lyrics: ” I know now, that I want to keep it / oh my god, do I want love”. A much earlier track, the electronic kazoo-filled ‘Out of the Blue’ is another calisthenics exercise, probably sounds familiar due to its noted similarities to MGMT’s ‘Kids’.

Album standout ‘Higher Love’, released as a single this past March and premiered on Zane Lowe’s evening programme on Radio 1, should not be confused with the Steve Winwood song of the same name, but like its predecessor, it’s pure pop of the highest calibre, guaranteed to burrow deep within your brain and consciousness, never to come out. ‘The Seeds You Sow’, which I really enjoyed watching Prides perform live last year, is conspicuously missing. I think they’ve missed a trick there. Newer song ‘Little Danger’ skirts the Justin Timberlake-style of urban pop at the start and the verses, but otherwise generally, and smartly so, sticks to the formula, as does ‘Just Say It’. While there’s a not lot of inventiveness here, the overall sound is slick and catchy, so why monkey with it, yeah?

Other tracks ‘The Way Back Up’ indicate the effort to prove to critics that they shouldn’t be pigeonholed by their fast tempo singles. The problem with these is that they’re indistinguishable and to some extent like the MGMT ‘Kids’ comparison, sound like songs that have come before, whether intentional or not. ‘Let It Go’ sounds like a lighter version of Savoir Adore‘s ‘Sea of Gold’, while ‘Same Mistakes’ could be from a ’90s boyband.

While I can appreciate the lovely harmonies of last track ‘The Kite String and the Anchor Rope’, it is the brooding conclusion to an album that seems practically requisite to end all pop albums now. It (almost) never works. Why do major labels think this is a good idea? Unless you’re out to sell individual singles as mp3s, do a Jon Stewart, end on a high note and keep our hearts pumping until the end.

7/10

‘The Way Back Up’, the debut album from Scottish band Prides, is out this Friday, the 10th of July, on Island Records. A deluxe version of the album will also be available on the same day with an extra five new tracks. For all past coverage of Prides on TGTF, including this interview I did with the trio at SXSW 2014, can be found here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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