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Tripwires – Spacehopper

Well, I was promised a review copy of this album from Tripwires manager, but like the many emailed promises of $50,000,000 which I’ve received from individuals “of the highest repute” in Nigeria, it appears to have somehow been lost in the post, so nil points to the band for that particular cock-up. For those of you new to Tripwires, you may be unfamiliar with their spiky brand of shoegazing which manages to blend a number of late eighties/early nineties influences into the mix and spit out something both fresh and contemporary.

We kick things off with title track ‘Spacehopper’, which sounds great. Layers of reverb guitar, dreamy vocals which build menacingly into a corker of a tune. It ends with a crescendo of feedback noise which sets the album off well. ‘Plasticine’ continues this theme nicely. Titles such as ‘A Feedback Loop Of Laughter’ aren’t going to win prizes in the ‘Album Track Title Of The Year’ competition but they’d certainly win a prize from me for having a go! Single ‘Shimmer’ is excellent and recalls some very fuzzy memories of sweaty Ride gigs. The real surprise for me was that ‘Shimmer’ is followed by not one, but five slower tracks. After seeing the band play live in Manchester earlier in the year, the intensity was maintained pretty much throughout the entire set whereas on record they sound like they’re onto album number #3 when in reality this is their debut (if we discount their unreleased, aborted Club AC30 recording from two years ago, also entitled Spacehopper ).

I’m not sure the inclusion of ‘Love Me Sinister’ is such a great idea after the punch-the-air fun of ‘Shimmer’ – it would have been better placed towards the end of the album as it’s overlong and slow. ‘Paint’ initially fares better with its MBV-style vibrato guitar sound but then fails to lift the album. ‘Tin Foil Skin’ fares much better with its almost psychedelic bass line which sounds like something which could have been recorded by Jah Wobble . I could easily imagine this track being a hit in indie clubland, particularly if it were remixed into more of a ‘Madchester’ sound. ‘Catherine, I Feel Sick’ has a nice dreamy quality to it but kind of feels a little lost after several slower tracks.

Overall, I’m slightly disappointed by the production quality of certain tracks. There are points during ‘A Feedback Loop Of Laughter’, for example, when I’m left with the feeling that the guitars sound muddy, the bass sounds too ‘dirgy’ and the drums not heavy enough. ‘Shimmer’ sounds far better by comparison. I’m also puzzled by the omission of ‘A Sunshine Overdose’. It’s a classic track and the album cries out for it. The biggest negative, however, is the overlong centrepiece of the album – there are simply too many slower and uninteresting tracks occupying this space. It’s not that tracks such as ‘Paint’, ‘Under A Gelatine Moon’ or ‘Wisdom Teeth’ are altogether bad, but they simply don’t bring anything new to the party, they’re versions of songs which have been written a thousand times before.

Overall, there’s probably enough material here to keep shoegaze & indie fans happy but I’m hoping that Tripwires’ second album will deliver the goods I know that they are capable of delivering in a live setting.

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