Finding The I 7½ ( 2008 )
Modern Man / Sunday Evening / Finding The I / Amalfi / Salad Days / Goodbye To You / Back To Nowhere / Turn Off The Radio / Up For Air / Take A Walk / Celebration / Simple
A new indie-rock-pop four piece, Madding Crowd take their cues from a range of artists, a diverse range influenced by having two band-members in their forties and two in their twenties. So, is it The Kinks or Britpop-era Blur they are influenced by? Factor in elements of punk, the libertines and a singer who has a voice I can't quite place. A saxophone enriches a couple of tunes and some Beatles pop? Well, that too. Thankfully, their idea to make this a concept album of sorts focusing on the life of mythical fifth band member, 'Billy' and his reactions to modern day life doesn't result in a 'Tommy' styled rock opera. No, what we have here is an album of twelve indie-pop songs reaching further and more intelligently than your usual indie-pop songs manage to do. We get ourselves literate and often humorous and delightful lyrics, a lead guitarist who clearly can play very well, as brief solos amply demonstrate. We have a singer who has a voice that some will love, some will hate and everything in between. What the vocals do offer Madding Crowd is an instant distinctive sound above and beyond whatever the music tries to achieve.
So, we start at the start, with 'Modern Man' which has already been released as a single. Adrian quickly checks whether he has reviewed the 'Modern Man' single....... ah, it seems not. Well, this is a song describing life as an endless roundabout married to music which sounds like a guitar heavy Blur, which isn't a bad thing, at all. There are also a couple of moments during this tune and a couple of others where you think they are suddenly going to turn into mersey-beat era Beatles, quite strange. Then you have songs with bounce and a vaguely modern sound resembling a band like The Libertines or The View. Well, far better than The View, not quite at prime Libertines level. A song like 'Finding The I' itself tends not to stick in the mind very long. On the other hand, 'Take A Walk' has stretches of driving guitar, an elastic sounding rhythm section and other temptations to offer up a veritable platter of enjoyment. As for variety, Madding Crowd generally sticks to their established indie/rock/pop-guitars/bass/drums type of Sixties/Punk/Pop influenced sound, but not always. 'Up For Air' for instance, one of the albums highlights sports attractive saxophone, a slower, more considered pace and a generally attractive and lovely air. The saxophone joins in again for 'Celebration', a storming guitar/sax hybrid and a moment of sheer cheerful joy. The closing 'Simple' is the final song and another that varies the formula. A soft acoustic guitar pattern goes around, we get stretches of the song that begin to resemble The Kinks, all good.
A generally strong debut, the first of three planned by Madding Crowd before apparently splitting up. It's always good to have a plan, helps you focus. Anyway, despite the writing occasionally slipping, Madding Crowd are clearly a band with ideas, ideas are in such short supply in commercial music at the moment, I want to thank Madding Crowd for offering up a few fresh ones here.