WHB, the debut album from London trio We Have Band, might have taken a while to arrive but thankfully it was worth waiting for. Produced by Gareth Jones, who has worked magic on Grizzly Bear, Interpol and Depeche Mode, there are a myriad of influences here – Joy Division, Bloc Party, tinges of Human League, Talking Heads – all paid homage to, rearranged and invigorated, twisted and made new.
The album opens on a slow and unnerving note with the moody -Piano’ and -Buffet’, a soft gloom that underpins much of the album yet is often contrasted by lighter, seemingly superficial pop and 80s-inspired, dancefloor-calling tracks. Indeed the sharp morph from -Buffet’ into the oscillating percussion and deep electronic underlay of -Divisive’ is album’s first example of sudden changes in pace. In this, the trio’s first single, there are hints of post-punk amidst the infectious, repeating chorus. The echoing sequencer sounds of -Love, What You Doing?’ sounds like a ship’s radar scanning the seas while the lyrics speak of searching for reason.
Repetition seems to be the name of the game here. Repeated chanting lyrics. Furious repetition of sounds, of hooks and melodies. One of the highlights of the album is the vocal contrast between the three members (Husband and wife team Thomas and Dede WP and Darren Bancroft) evident in the catchy, sure-to-be-a-hit -Oh!’ – three minutes of alarm-like guitars, like The Rapture borrowing a hook or two from Audio Bullys yet all the while remaining something specific to We Have Band.
It’s a cohesive piece of work, what keeps WHB fresh is the arrangement of the songs. Each track showing a slightly abrasive change from the one before while at the same time falling into line with the overall emotion. There is the dare-you-not-to-dance rhythms and beats of -Honeytrap’ with Dede announcing some dance commandments – -Line-up, clap hands, let’s go!’, sandwiched in between the stripped bare vocals of -How to Make Friends’ and the electro-pop -Hear it in the Cans’.
Intense, dark electro seems to be in fashion currently and while We Have Band draw some comparisons with their London compatriots New Young Pony Club, there is less of the deep melancholy than underlined the Club’s most recent effort a few weeks back. When they do venture into dark territory, it’s chilling, the emotion resonates as is the case in the tenebrous -Centrefolds & Empty Screens’ but the listener is never given a chance to dwell on the emptiness. Straight out of the unsettling -Centrefolds’¦’ into the quirky -You Came Out’, with Dede taking lead vocals and simply having fun, and -WHB’, a searing three minutes of electronic emotion – its refrain -on and on, on and on, until the end’ reverberates in your consciousness. It’s a fitting lead-up to the impassioned shadows that surround album closer -Hero Knows’. But despite the apparent gloom, there is one notable line here: ‘Baby Please don’t wish away the dark days, they’re the ones that make it all worthwhile’. Where would we be without the blackness to help us understand the light? It’s a beautiful yet slightly wistful observation and one that works well for this album. WHB can be viewed as a serious piece of work – even the upbeat tracks have poignancy courtesy of the downcast.
We Have Band have stuck a perfect balance here between the darkness and the light. A promising debut.