This debut self-titled effort from Essex five-piece VILLAINS is a modern rock record with plenty of perfectly decent hooks and ideas, but few moments which really stand out beyond the high bar set by the You Me At Six’s and Lower Than Atlantis’ of this world. Throw in high profile newcomers a la Don Broco and Blitz Kids and what you’ve got is an ever more difficult market place to set out your stall. Time will tell whether VILLAINS can emerge through that chasm, but Radio 1 airplay and 30,000 video views for lead single The Fall won’t hurt their plight. Nor will said video being the most requested on Scuzz TV two weeks on the bounce before release, so what the fuck do I know?
It’s a song which rolls with the winning formula of 1 part odd-time post-rock or hardcore quirk with 2 parts modern pop sensibility and a clinical production that makes the record enjoyable to listen to throughout. The track makes good use of the combined vocal skills on display and is admittedly up there with the best of the aforementioned Don Broco radio-ready choruses.
Having spent the last couple of years touring throughout the UK and Europe, VILLAINS have had time to hone their craft on the road, and this is clear throughout the album – it’s well played, it’s well structured, it’s interesting at times, but it just doesn’t have me dying to go and see them live right now, which is what I always want from a first listen. I think if I did it the other way round however, I’d be way more in to it.
The Way I Tell Them has a great lead guitar riff hinting at some indie influences lurking behind the band’s modern rock shield – nods toward The Cure are prevalent throughout the verses whilst the choruses are back to business – heavy and rocking, and perfectly foot-tappingly / head-groovingly so as well.
The warm melodic vocal sits really nicely in the mix on all the tracks and the contrast with the dirty guitars of the choruses and break-downs makes the album more interesting. One of my gripes about modern rock is that singers are all starting to sound the same. Not so the case with VILLAINS, bringing something a bit different in this respect.
Wicked Ways is my favourite track, a British alt rock belter reminiscent of Hundred Reasons, Hell is For Heroes and Biffy Clyro, and with The Light Outlives The Star, VILLAINS may have a stadium power ballad up there with Train and Coldplay.
This is something else very much in VILLAINS favour – they’d be as home on Radio 2 on a Saturday afternoon as they would be the Radio 1 Rock Show or live from the Apollo. Whether you’ll be tuning in or buying a ticket remains to be seen. This is a well written, well played and well produced debut album by a good band, it’s just too like other recent modern rock releases to really set the bar any higher. That said, this is album one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll be hearing more from VILLAINS in the future, a lot more.
– Adam Lewis
Support Band: Self Release