[sic] Magazine

Grammatics – Grammatics

Sometimes you just have to hold your hand up. I’d seen a lot of overblown claims for Grammatics in the press and of course I had to know better didn’t I. ‘Here comes another bandwagon’, I thought, or at least assumed.

And then I pressed Play.

Actually opener ‘Shadow Committee’ went some way toward confirming my suspicions. ‘More bloody art-rock types’, I told myself as the track limps comically out of its serene, post-rock fade-in. ‘Hasn’t the mathy, angular, tangent-pop thing been done to death?’ I don’t mind being provoked or wrong-footed by music but at the end of the day it’s still just that. Music. I want to feel it not intellectualise it. Wire understood it best. Wrap your intelligence in the perfect pop song.

Next up ‘D.I.L.E.M.M.A.’ flirts briefly with the tinny, fret-flicker sound that typified the Foals Antidotes album. Thankfully this is a one-off and doesn’t define the record. Then proceedings take a healthy turn for the better and stay that way largely for the duration. ‘Murderer’ is impossibly lovely – achingly, heartfelt and tender – the clichés keep coming like Kleenex during a Hollywood weapie. (Ours, not Grammatics) Imagine an angelic Morrissey. That’s Owen Brinley. The pitch maybe a million miles away but the phrasing, the yearning. Tell me I’m wrong.

‘The vague archive’ cements the about-turn. By now the album is a roaring success. The delay on the vocal at the beginning reminds me of Bohemian Rhapsody but the song itself is more Tokyo Police Club than Queen if only the Canadians had really let themselves go and embarked on an ambitious head odyssey. Yes, it is progressive but it WORKS – choirboy Mozzer returning to lament “another bump on the head”. The outstanding ‘Broken Wing’ is nothing short of awesome, its stripped back guitars and deft strings bringing to mind the wonderful Sophia. Two minutes in and boom, the Sophia comparison is nailed down with a climactic shift. Oh yes, Grammatics oh YES. You’ve cracked it wide open and you know it. (Listen for the yelped “whoa” in the background, which really is the icing on the cake.)

I was wrong about Grammatics then. This time the hyperbole is justified. By the albums halfway point they’ve already proved themselves and done their job but still the quality never really lets up. Where I remain marginalized from the ‘critical mass’, so to speak, centres on the justification for my affirmation. And this concerns the “arty/prog” tag. I see it. But I’d downplay it. Where others may be wowed or overawed by the shapes and complexities Grammatics pull out of their arrangements, I see it as neither that original nor the most significant factor. Other bands have ventured into this territory, most notably Mew, whose ‘Circuitry of the wolf’ is often recalled during this record. Plus, as I mentioned, I think its moot anyway. Grammatics aren’t the neo-avant-garde. The material is shot through with melody and the vocal is simply gorgeous.

Vive le différence then. “Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day” (Withnail and I) and even fashion sometimes gets it right. The UK has gone mad for Grammatics and Bloc Party are certainly taking one hell of a risk touring with these guys. This fine debut will feature strongly in the year-end round-ups. But fashion can be fickle and fleeting. The difference is that [sic] will still listen to Grammatics long and hard after they’ve fallen out of vogue.