For Fans Of
In late 2008, Oxford, UK math-rock group This Town Needs Guns released their debut album, ‘Animals‘. Filled with intricate, Kinsella-esque guitar riffs, interlocking melodies, eccentric time signatures, the album was a well-received slice of refreshing math-rock meets indie pop. Over four years later, and having gone through multiple lineup changes (including the replacement of original vocalist Stuart Smith with Pennines‘ vocalist Henry Tremain), the band present sophomore full-length ‘22.214.171.124.0‘.
Album openers “Cat Fantastic” and “Havoc in the Forum” signal some of the more distinct changes to the Guns‘ arsenal. There’s still a heavy focus on the impressively complex, noodly guitar the band is known for, but there’s an obvious shift in the way of poppiness, especially on the latter. The percussion feels slightly less ambitious than on earlier records, but that’s not to say it feels any less impressive, and if anything, makes the songs a layer more accessible. The other more obvious change is Tremain‘s vocal style – which, at first listen, is noticeably higher in pitch, and with a certain tone that can at times lack some of the emotive quirks of former vocalist Smith. That said, Tremain is technically a very competent replacement that fits into the band’s mold without skipping a beat.
As the record progresses, one begins to notice the themes present in the first couple songs a bit more – for one, there’s some seriously poppy elements going on here. Some of the hooks found on “I’ll Take the Minute Snake”, “Triptych” and album highlight “3 Awesomeness Repels Water” are among the catchiest of the band’s career. The band have also experimented further with dynamics, pace and melody, but in a way that still manages to feel quite accessible. Tremain‘s vocals start to feel a little more personal and heartfelt – acoustic number “2 Birds, 1 Stone and an Empty Stomach” features Tremain pulling off delicate, near-falsetto vocals and it makes for one of the album’s most refreshing moments.
However, for all its catchy hooks and pop sensibilities, the album is ultimately a grower; in the sense that truly understanding some of the most enjoyable moments on the record takes multiple listens. This is a double-edged sword in that fans expecting immediacy, or first-time listeners expecting instant accessibility may be let down – however, there’s something to be said for being able to find something new to appreciate about each song on each new listen.
The album tends to lose the momentum and excitement built up by the “real” tracks to several instrumental interludes scattered throughout. These can feel somewhat unnecessary when compared to some of the instrumental tracks on ‘Animals‘ which managed to mellow the pace out a little without sacrificing listener interest.
With ‘126.96.36.199.0‘, This Town Needs Guns manage to re-invent themselves, albeit with a markedly different cast of characters, and create a math-pop record that feels catchier, but with the promise that, much like a great book or intelligent film, true appreciation for the clever intricacies that lie within come with taking the time to unravel the layers.
1. Cat Fantastic
2. Havoc in the Forum
3. Left Aligned
4. In The Branches of Yggdrasil
5. I’ll Take the Minute Snake
6. 2 Birds, 1 Stone And An Empty Stomach
7. Nice Riff, Clichard
9. Pygmy Polygamy
10. A Different Kind of Tall (small)
11. 3 Awesomeness Repels Water