With their charmingly twee, embarrassingly sincere and occasionally lovely debut album, Guillemots made a cosy nest for themselves in the hearts of many a music fan - particularly those predisposed to sensitivity without frenzied angst. Through the Windowpane was first and foremost a love album peppered with nimble dashes of quirkiness, but with no aspirations for chart glory. Even with a frontman called Fyfe Dangerfield, there was nothing pretentious about the avant-garde popsters.
In the preceding two years, however, Guillemots have lost a member, gained a major label deal, and have done away with the idiosyncratic foibles that were so prevalent on Windowpane. From the very outset, it's apparent that the foursome are on a mission to create dynamic, eccentric and diverse songs that will have a much more immediate impact than their predecessors. The resultant problem with such aspirations, however, means that there's no clear direction on Red; just mainly a flurry of melodies and ambitious key changes without a fulcrum to hang off.
Red is certainly a much more adventurous record, though; there's more sharp, opulent drama (Kriss Kross), big '80s pop sounds (Clarion, Cockateels) and dance-worthy beats and experimentation (Don't Look Down, Get Over It) here, but the delicate acoustic and piano ballads (Falling Out of Reach, Words) that Damien Rice would gnaw his own arm off for haven't been completely jettisoned, either.
On one hand, it's admirable that Guillemots haven't just churned out their successful debut in different packaging - something more than a few bands have been guilty of over the past decade. On the other, it seems like they have a severely misplaced need to be eclectic, which means that most of Red's tracks are half-formed and should subsequently be filed under 'Good idea, poor execution'. Still, this is by no means an irredeemable album - just one that you may find a lot more difficult to be charmed by.