by / September 18th, 2009 /

CODES – Trees Dream In Algebra

 2/5 Rating


The critical theory of Post-Modernism includes the idea that nothing in the world can be new or innovative, because everything has happened already. So, according to Post-Modernism, musical trends and genres are reused, and sometimes reinvented until they are barely recognisable, brilliant homages to a sonic era bygone. It would seem then, that CODES don’t subscribe to the tenets of such a theory, with their biography confidently declaring; ‘never ones to be content with trend-following, the group have taken the recognisable 4-piece band formula and moved it into something entirely their own’. Generally, truly revolutionary, landmark records are a rarity; sometimes, it’s perfectly acceptable for a record to be imitative or unoriginal, especially if what you’re imitating in the first place is good. It is regrettable then, that Trees Dream In Algebra rather sounds like it could be the by-product of a romantic union between Keane and a tranquilised Muse.

CODES’ debut effort is an album of hits and misses, mediocrity interrupted by moments of brilliance. No song summarises this stance more perfectly than ‘This Is Goodbye’. Incidentally, if you forget the title, it is uttered immediately at the beginning of the track, a wholly unnecessary and slightly bizarre female spoken word sample. Fortunately, it heralds a buoyant melodic arrangement complete with delightfully delicate glockenspiels, elevating strings and an infectiously upbeat chorus. Unfortunately, the song suffers from weak verses with bland melodies and cheesy echoed vocal effects which appear to be used on almost ever song on the album. Other tracks are simply second-rate, such as ‘Our Mysteries (Missed Histories)’, a song title which would have got bonus points for the use of rhyme and parentheses were it not so cringeworthy. Equally toe-curling are the seemingly saccharine but empty lyrics, which refer to broken parasols and veils of misery, while the superfluous spoken word samples also continue to rack up.

Yet whilst there are numerous of distinctly average songs that all sound suspiciously similar, Trees Dream In Algebra also offers to its listener a few confectionary-sweet delights. Forceful album opener ‘Malfunctions’ lavishes spine-chilling strings over a bleary sample and electronics that sound like something from The Clangers, frenzied drums and arresting guitar riffs. ‘Cities’ begins with a sweet, lingering piano refrain that erupts into racing, euphoric drums, soaring synths and a juddering bass line, while ‘Telos’ is simple, swelling instrumental that has a beautifully poignant cinematic quality and lovely lullaby-esque melodies.

It is obvious that CODES have not made a bad debut album. With Greg Haver at the helm (Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals), the production is flawless, with each song segueing glibly into the other. There is also the impression that CODES were a band built to fill stadiums of fans (although possibly composed and seated), as songs like ‘Guided By Ghosts’ demonstrate not only a powerful, reverberating tune, and wraithlike vocals, but an anthemic quality too. But the eternal problem with this album is that it is so formulaic it feels like a never-ending maths equation. Hopefully by their follow-up attempt, CODES will have learnt that the cardinal rule of ‘everything in moderation’. Echoed vocal effects included.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube

  • Billy

    What a strange review!!!

  • Nicky

    Ok. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Never heard of this band to be honest but i bought it today on the strenght of previous album reivews and probably the Irish Independent Review today swung it for me. Firstly, it was not cheap!! I paid 16.99 in Tower (Ok ok ok i should have gone to HMV). Secondly, its probably the best debut album i have bought since Pearl Jams TEN (no, the bands are not alike, merely a comment)

    Thirdly, i am a bit pissed! However, “its obvious that Codes have not made a bad album” is rather confusing seeing as your Green Area falls well below 50% in its rating.

    Cannot agree with this review but as i said, everyone entitled to an opinion! Anyone know what Telos is!?

  • Sorry for riling you Nicky! I still maintain that I don’t believe it’s a bad album.I just don’t believe it’s a good one either. When you’re scoring something out of just 5 it can be difficult to gauge where an album should fall, but I don’t believe that my overall marking and the comment I made contradict themselves.

    Also, according to my digital copy of the album, ‘Telos’ is the name of track 6.

    Really glad you liked the album so much; it’s lovely when you make a new music discovery that excites you.

  • for the love of Irish Music… for the Love of CODES.

  • and Telos… is quite simply the most beautiful piece of music i have heard in too long.

  • NIcky

    I meant “pissed” as in drunk (see time of of post) I also meant “what does Telos mean” (since found out it means The End me thinks)

    Anyway, have made my protest for all concerned.

  • Gav

    Review is spot on.. It’s not a particularly opinionated piece, rather it just states how this record is a fine example of plagiarism.

    There are so many better Irish bands than Codes, it’s a shame to see so much publicity for them given this mediocre record. Really is a who you know is what you know business in Ireland.

  • I will disagree wholeheartedly there Gav. Who are you implying the band “know”? Because honest to God i can’t think for the life of me who it is… maybe you have some hidden secrets that you would like to share instead of just imply?

    All i know, and this is first hand knowledge, is that these are 4 passionate and driven young men who have put their lives into making an album. An album which they care about, and have taken a committed interest into every aspect of it… recording, mixing, mastering, packaging and publishing (I’d like to see any other young Irish band have such intense dedication) …and have done everything in their power (honestly and fairly) to get the album out to the public.

    No other band has won my respect such as CODES… and i have worked with a lot of Irish bands.

    And for the plagiarism remark?! go on will ya…

  • NIcky


    What a stupid thing to say about ANY band. “Its a shame to see them get so much publicity”. The vast majority of National Paper reviews/online have championed the band, hence they like the record. Doesnt make it a good or bad record. In your opinion its a mediocre record and thats fine but you cant throw your toys out of the pram because bands you like are not getting the publicity.

    Perhaps Friendly Fires, Passion Pit, Hockey are more your thing. Limited, short shelf life crap which is replaced almost every 6 months with something new from the “bloggers”.

    Anyway, my point here is not, “oh why are you slagging CODES”, my point is make sensible points because the one above is just stupid.

  • Seán Ó Lúba

    I disagree with the review, but fair enough everyone is entitled to their opinion (including reviewers) and that is what makes the world go ’round! I really like the album, but why I am posting is to comment on Gav’s post that the work is a “fine example of plagiarism”. I take issue with this statement because what I like about this band and their work is that they clearly go their own way and do their own thing musically. Rather than thrying to do what is proving popular at a given time as many bands these days seem to do, these guys have come up with something unique to them. So I can’t for the life of me figure out the “plagiarism” claim at all!

  • SteveM

    yikes – yet another poor review from a State contributor. What sort of quality checks are in place here?

  • Patrick Conboy

    SteveM, would you care to explain just why you think the review is poor?

  • Gavan

    As Sean said, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I was really looking forward to this album as I do think Codes stand out from a lot of other bands at the moment. There are misses but overall I think it’s an exceptional debut. I also agree with Sophie though, the use of echo on the vocals is annoying and is my biggest problem with it. What were they thinking?

  • Lucy

    Ah, give em a break ffs. State are at this stage synonymous with giving Irish bands (outside of their online “clique” or creating anything daringly close to the mainstream) bad reviews so for Codes fans and friends, just get over this review. Fair play to them for seein it through and getting the reviews and gaining new fans. Have heard this is goodbye, lovely song. Yeah maybe the female whisper at the start is unneccessary and cheesy, but it’s fine. Lead vocalist has a great voice. Codes are a good band.

  • Patrick Conboy

    Lucy, some Irish albums reviewed in recent times:

    Julie Feeney: Pages – 4/5
    Super Extra Bonus Party: Night Horses – 4/5
    Paranoid Visions: Beware of the God – 3/5
    The Laundry Shop: Grandstanding – 4/5
    Adrian Crowley: Season of the Sparks – 4/5

    Hardly bad reviews, are they? I’d be interested in hearing how you came to the conclusion that State is “synonymous with giving Irish bands (outside of their online ‘clique’ or creating anything daringly close to the mainstream) bad reviews…”

  • As far as I’m aware we dont have any online clique, lol! Interesting bit of paranoia going on there, in truth a lot of us have never met each other, and State certainly doesnt dictate in anyway how its writers review anything. As for Codes, I just dont think they’re very good in truth, what I’ve heard of Codes sounds like Keane with less imagination, and its utterly uninspired. Just my opinion, but fans need to realise that not everyone’s that impressed.

    As for my own album reviews, I can only recall reviewing five Irish albums, and three were positive (And So I Watch You From Afar, Sixteen Layers and Jabbas), one was indifferent (Paranoid Visions) and one was pretty negative (Margaret Healy). I hardly think that’s slamming the Irish acts, and I’m not even Irish, so no bias either…

    But stuff like this happens everytime anybody writes something somebody else disagrees with. It’s getting a bit old, really, and would actually encourage far more people to buy the album if people came back with a proper rebuttal, rather than just petty stone throwing, dont you think?

  • Lucy

    Reviewers are so up their own arses it’s not even funny. Throwing five albums that have been reviewed well by State doesn’t sway my opinion in any way.
    So all you donks can have your opinion, and i’ll have mine. You share yours, and i’ll share mine (paranoid as it may be).

    You righteous gits

  • Patrick Conboy

    Best laugh I’ve had all day… not only could you not explain yourself but you’ve been reduced to throwing personal insults when your views are questioned. Brilliant!

  • If we had a problem with you sharing your opinion, Lucy, there wouldnt be a comments section. But if you expect to come on a site and tell us that we’re writing about music based on some phantom clique, you have to have expected a response and some evidence to back it up, and that’s all we’ve given you, whether willing to accept it or not.

    If you want to go through and make a positive/ neutral/ negative review list for Irish artists and say how it all fits into this ‘clique’ you’re very welcome, but until you do your argument looks paranoid, whereas ours is actually based on some substance, which is why our instinctive reaction was to counter with the reviews. (that and the fact that, working for State, we know there isnt a clique thing going on, though you’re welcome to believe us or not, doesn’t worry me one jot either way…)

    I fail to see what’s righteous about the whole thing, anyway, no one’s said you’re wrong, just that they disagree. It’s called opinion. I wouldnt even have got involved if it wasnt for the clique comment, to be honest, I just found it too funny to leave.

  • Lucy

    Taking Git and Donk personally? Must have hit a nerve if that’s the case! Ffs…

  • Patrick Conboy

    Lucy, if you want to be taken seriously then you’d better add some substance to your contributions. As it is, you’re only succeeding in making yourself look silly.

  • billy

    Codes are like a lot of generic pap that clog up the airwaves (chapters, coronas, etc…yawn). Dig a little deeper and theres no substance to it. Radio friendly, light weight and ultimately disposable. I think State offer excellent reviews, not following the pack and actually articulating what they really feel about records they review and measuring it against international stuff thats out there. Keane and muse comparisons. jesus.

  • It’s funny, and worth noting, that when most bands get a pretty shit review, nothing happens, but when a band get a bad review and that bad happen to have a sigificant publicity push behind them or an omnipresent online street-team then this happens.

    But everyone who defends them just happens to be a fan taking issue with the reviewer. Is that mere coincidence?

    And Ruth, most Irish albums these days are self-released, so any number of bands have taken an interest in every little detail of the production process. Codes had EMI with them.

    In fairness, Codes are pretty dull. I’ve seen them live and heard most of the album. Matt Bellamy’s polished turd.

  • Tom

    I like Codes, they’re catchy and well produced. However, I do agree that they are a lot more shallow than they think they are. For all their talk of diverse musical textures and hyperbole press releases, they are certainly no Sigur Ros or Radiohead.

    And although I think the review was fairly written. I wonder about the target audience of State. Look at the stuff they review well, it’s more mature, cerebral stuff that you’re more likely to see being pushed by Pitchfork and other indie alternative outlets. Looking to State for a review on pop/rock is similar to asking your Granny’s opinion on the top 40 chart. Sure she might like a few songs but it’s not what she’s really into.
    So is it a case that State aren’t assigning the right reviewers to the right genres or is it a case that you really shouldn’t be here looking for pop/rock reviews? I’ll let you decide. In my opinion I only go to State for “music snob” reviews. Obscure, indie bands or blogosphere trendsetters. I really don’t expect a fair review from them on someone like Razorlight, Snow Patrol or the Killers. If you like that kind of music, look elsewhere, State is not for you.

  • Lads, to be honest, I was a bit drunk down the pub the last night, and I may have told someone about the whole clique rule… Someone wearing a Codes badge. Sorry about that.

  • Smab

    Hmmm. I have to admit my first reaction to reading this review is to get all bolshy and complain about it – but that’s because in my own opinion, Trees Dream in Algebra is one of the best albums I’ve bought this year. I’ve been listening to it over and over every chance I got since I bought it.

    No one likes to be told something they love is crap! On the other hand, I still think it’s a good review. The writer’s explained her reasoning and pointed out what she thought were the weak and strong points of the album. I even agree with her about some things (it is a little heavy on the unintelligible vocal samples).

    Are Codes my favourite band right now? Yes. I think they are a little new and different, very good live and I think the album is cohesive and not a ‘mixed bag’ at all. But that doesn’t mean I think they can do no wrong and have no need to improve on anything! I have very high hopes for them and I don’t want this album to be the best thing they ever do!

    I really don’t think they sound at all like either Keane or Muse though, I mean except for in a very general ‘guitars and keyboards are involved’ kind of way.

  • lol at the “Irish-hater” comments. Anti-(what the reviewer sees as) mediocre, perhaps. From the little I heard (I’ve only heard the clip posted here) they don’t particularly sound like anything groundbreaking, but that’s no reason why anyone who disagrees shouldn’t like them. I’ll give em a proper checkin’ out tomorrow. And anyway, fair play to them – they’ve certainly done well in the last while. Quite some buzz about the album and even managed getting on the Myspace homepage.

    On a side note, I remember seeing them when they were called [Lost] and they played on the side of a van outside Central Bank. Your man looked pretty much identical to Matt Bellamy circa Origin of Symmetry with the mad spiky hair, I’m sure I still have a picture of him somewhere.

  • Tom…

    Although one of our aims is to promote new music – especially from Ireland, Lucy – we also love mainstream music of any genre. You should have seen the stink when we put Abba on the cover of the magazine.

  • They sold out the Academy on Saturday which is good going obviously.

    The older stuff was definitely more Muse-esque from what I heard.