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Don't Worry, You'll Be Here Forever EP

[Self-released; 2011]

By ; January 16, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

As far as band names go, NO is a pretty awful one. Apart from being near enough un-googleable, it seems to ooze a certain unimaginativeness, being memorable only for how terrible it is. Yes, that’s a harsh assessment, but in this day and age, when there’s a vast plethora of potential new music to digest every day, sometimes a band’s name is all they’ve got. With their caps locked two letters standing as tall as they can, does the music that accompanies the name rightfully stand tall too?

The answer to that would have to be yes. Their music often goes for a dimly-lit type of intensity that tries to overstep the traditional workings of a pop song. Guitars snarl and are suitably textured in a way that suggests emotions like anxiety and sadness, while never taking unnecessary moments to go off on some wanky guitar solo. Lyrically the band seems to centre on using casual metaphors to address relatable situations, like a break up or loneliness in a big city. Hang on, doesn’t this all sound strangely familiar?

The answer to that would have to be yes. If you’ve ever listened to The National then you’ll swear you’re hearing a tribute band when listening to NO. It’s an easy – and flattering – but inevitable comparison to make. Melodies carefully tremble at the slowest moments and are brazen affairs when the pace ups itself; all they need are the baroque string arrangements from Padma Newsome and they’ve got all the pieces they need to become one of the most consistent American bands from the last decade! And if the musical comparison wasn’t enough, lead vocalist Bradley Hanan Carter then enters, sounding like a factory-built Matt Berninger double. But wait, aren’t you better actually just listening to The National?

The answer to that would have to be yes. While albums like Alligator and Boxer are masterful pieces of work, it takes time to write, record and release them, and that’s where NO come in useful. At a time when another album from The National is nowhere on the foreseeable horizon, a band that echo their best parts isn’t unwelcome as far as I’m aware. “Big Waves” might well start off with wide open guitar chords that are worryingly similar to “Mr November,” but instead they opt for a wordless chorus and put the emphasis on the song’s bridge, which sounds like it’s trying to dodge numerous melodies. Guitar textures contrast on “There’s A Glow” as they go from churning to glimmering in the space of a few seconds, while on opening track “Another Life” they ring alongside some distant brass instruments, creating a rallying chorus worthy to be called their own.

It sounds lazy to constantly compare NO to The National (and to make light of their name) but it’s the kind of comparison that’s hard to work past, especially when you can hear the band trying to create something as clever and as well-written. Too often though, they don’t quite get there, and for a good deal of the time Carter’s lyrics can be what holds them back. While Berninger’s lyrics retain a confusing ambiguity, they always seem to latch onto someone or something specific and make the ordinary sound devastatingly interesting (among other things). Carter, on the other hand, does come off as someone with stories to tell, but he sounds like he’s staying in the big picture, always talking unspecifically, if not singing in strange parables (“Welcome to the storm / We’re babies ‘til we’re born / And then adults ‘til the first day breathing”).

And that’s fine, as demonstrated on “Another Life,” where he goes through the motions of a break-up and the consequences it has on one’s social life (“No awkward invitations / we’d just invite them all”). It helps that he sells a line like “I’ll pretend that I don’t think of you,” making it their strongest song here. At the other end of the EP there’s “Stay With Me,” where he makes his grandest gesture, climaxing to an anthemic sing along: “Stay with me / We were never meant to be apart.” It’s the kind of chorus that could so easily find itself being sung by a hoard of post-Coldplay fans, which is a promising image for the band – it’s just a shame it’s such a bland sentiment.

But with a strong start, the rest of the EP comes off well; even though the other songs aren’t quite as good as “Another Life” they’re still rousing enough to keep your attention fixed for twenty minutes or so. They even try mixing things up on “Coming Down” with fluttering robotic drums, where Carter’s voices also gets a synthetic edge. It’s an admirable step outside the sound of everything else here, but it’s also a bit of a dud and it’s unfortunately the low point of the EP – but thankfully the shortest track. Is it a case then, that sounding like The National, is what NO do best?

The answer to that would have to be yes.


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