This review represents a number of firsts for me. For openers, it’s the first thing I’ve written for the blog in five months (whoops). Second, it’s the first review I’ve ever written after only one listen of an album (actually two by the time the review was finished). And third, the album represents the first time I have ever been eagerly awaiting a *debut* album from a band (that wasn’t made up of already famous musicians). But as luck would have it, I came home tonight from an eventful day and went to my music site to throw something on for the night and – BOOM! There in my inbox was a notification that this album – which I had been impatiently waiting for since December 2012 – was finally available. This has been a long time coming.
So why all the fuss? It all started back when I fell into one of my typical YouTube wormholes, bouncing around and clicking on suggested music video links. I continue to discover amazing stuff that way, and the video for “Choked Up” was no exception. I was completely drawn in by the vocalist’s almost impenetrable Scottish accent, as well as the oddly hypnotic simplicity of the video. I watched it something like six times that night, constantly hitting repeat or going back to it after playing other stuff. I was hooked instantly and downloaded the single (all that the group had made available to that point) soon after. I figured a debut album was soon to follow, but then… nothing.
One year later while randomly playing the video for the millionth time I noticed a link to what looked like a new video from the band, “Better Than This”. While not quite the grabber the first song was, it still had me salivating for a proper full album. But again… nothing. Finally in April of this year a third single/video appeared for what would eventually be the title track of the debut album Fighting The Future, a song I’ve been playing the hell out of for weeks now. Which eventually brings us to tonight, with the release of the full length album and the end of my case of musical blue balls.
So, is it possible for an album to be both a success and a disappointment at the same time? It is in this case, although the disappointment stems from the fact that the entire album is only 9 songs and barely 35 minutes long, including 3 songs which I am already overly familiar with. Quite simply it’s not enough for me, as I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this release and would have loved to have had more music to savor.
Brevity aside, the music enclosed does not disappoint, as even at first pass the remaining six tracks delivered precisely the kind of bright, crunchy guitar pop that I was hoping for. This band has an obvious sound connection to fellow Scot’s Big Country, particularly their brilliant 1993 album The Buffalo Skinners, which went mostly unnoticed in the States. The songs have great atmosphere and some occasionally muscular guitar all with a very polished sheen, and singer Allan Sieczkowski really soars at times (“Choked Up” being a prime example). Yeah, the accent can be a bit tough to overcome at times, but I mostly see it as part of the band’s charm. Like Big Country, it’s poppy but with that slightly rough-around-the-edges bent you get from a lot of UK bands. At times they are also very reminiscent of modern day Goo Goo Dolls, reaching that adult-oriented pop-rock sound although with an obvious youthful energy that the Dolls now lack.
As for the “new” tracks, “Disco” is an insanely catchy number with a great guitar shuffle over a grinding bass beat and, as you would guess given the name, a very danceable track as rock songs go. “Rescue Me” slows things down for the first time with a slow building and stripped back first-half that finally explodes in a power ballad kind of way coming down the stretch. “Nightfall” is mid-tempo number that slowly builds into something a little bigger by the end and which sounds like it’d be a great “late night driving into oblivion” song. “Last Kiss” is a remake of the old Wayne Cochrane teen tragedy song that Pearl Jam had some solid success with back in 1999. It’s probably the weakest track on the album only because Little Eye’s simplistic approach to it, while fine, doesn’t match the agitated raggedness that gave PJ’s version so much integrity. “Endgame” cranks things back up again and is the song on the album that most resembles something off the aforementioned The Buffalo Skinners, just a hard-driving guitar track with an insistent rhythm. Album closer “Prepare To Land” follows a now familiar path of starting slow and adding depth and dynamic as it goes along, finishing with a soaring flourish, making it a fine capper to the (all-too-brief) festivities.
It would seem ridiculous to declare my Album Of The Year after a few scant listens and I’m not quite ready to do that just yet, but in a year where I have struggled to find that one album that blew my doors off and demanded repeated listens, I won’t find it a stretch to have Fighting The Future at the top of the heap when the year is over. In some ways it’s a perfect album for me, combining energetic guitars, clean quality vocals (accent issues not withstanding), and urgent pop song structures. I will be listening to this album a lot over the coming weeks and months and my only hope is that many other people do too so that this band will achieve whatever level of success they need in order to ensure future releases, because as awesome as I believe this record is, it would be a tragedy if it winds up being their only one. Spread the word, Little Eye are for real.
4. Rescue Me
5. Choked Up
7. Last Kiss
9. Prepare To Land
Allan Sieczkowski (V), Euan Malloch (G), Marcus Cordock (B), Jay Hepburn (D)
Produced by Geoff Dugmore
(Added bonus video: their excellent cover of Paramore’s “Monster”.)