Recorded in Donegal with Villagers guitarist / producer Tommy McLaughlin, it's hard not to think of Conor J. O' Brien & Co. on the opening track of Dublin duo We Cut Corners' Think Nothing, their second record for Delphi.
Former tour mates of the Domino Records band, We Cut Corners' John Duignan sings in the same portentous, whimpering tones as the Villagers' front man on opening track 'Wallflowers'. A play on 'dressing gown' ("depressing gown") in the lyric to 'Wallflowers' doesn't quite work; it's about as funny a play on words as Morrissey's 'King Leer' or 'Roy's Keen'. The true substance of 'Wallflowers' is eventually revealed by John Buckley's beautiful, stirring string arrangements, saving 'Wallflowers' from pastiche and adding a necessary dimension to the song.
Swinging from the sombre opening track, 'Blue' is a pulsating rock tune built around the relentless, throbbing tom- tom- heavy drumming of Conall O' Breachain, immediately recalling Placebo's 'Nancy Boy'. The dynamics of 'Mammals', one of the record's stand out tunes, showcases just how many musical elements this two- piece are capable of showing.
The band's ability to move, convincingly, from quite, contemplative acoustic tracks to all- out rock tunes and back to acoustic balladry recalls Lifted... era Bright Eyes, as well as The Frames' classic Dance the Devil.
Another stand out from the band's second effort is 'Maybe in the Future', which, again, is strengthened by John Buckley's subtle, colourful string arrangements, which are less Nick Drake and more Love, recalling one of the more contemplative tracks from Arthur Lee & Co.'s classic Forever Changes LP, particularly in the song's middle eight.
Aware of the formal limitations of a two- piece, one of We Cut Corners' secret weapons is their knack for pulling off swelling choruses, such as that on 'Overtures', a track from the second side of Think Nothing that has 'single' written all over it.
The album's weakest link is 'Every Thief', a song that doesn't really go anywhere and pales by comparison to everything that has gone before it. Not only is the song lacking in punch, but the arrival of crashing drums and distorted guitar tones by the song's final chorus tires at a point in the record where that particular trick has been used up, somewhat. Single 'Y K K' saves the second side at a point in the record when one feels that the record is beginning to lose momentum.
Whatever momentum has slipped, however, is regained. Ending on 'Hunger', a song which bookends 'Wallflowers', the album's closing track features Buckley's string arrangements and it's anchored by O' Breachain's slow, solemn bass drum, closing the 10 track record of 28 minutes in the kind of less- is- more fashion that is part of We Cut Corners' charm.
Where We Cut Corners will go next is anyone's guess, but, for now, Think Nothing is the sound of a band whose third record will define them, which makes album number 3 an exciting prospect, indeed.
Review by Phil Cummins