They say three is a magic number, and We Have Band seem to believe in that. They have three members, three words in their band name and have named their latest album (their second, not their third unfortunately) Ternion, which is defined as “three: the cardinal number that is the sum of one and one and one.” They also strive to create music that works on three levels: as something purely poppy, as something that you’ll find has more intricacies if you concentrate, and as something that you can dance to when turned up loud. Across Ternion they balance these three goals well, to varying degrees of effectiveness.
The method that We Have Band use most commonly is the straightforward stomping dance-punk sound. By setting the beat in motion immediately and leaving it that way for the song’s length, they then have the ideal platform for building up layers of intertwining guitars and anthemic gang vocals in the choruses. It’s not complex, but it is effective due to the precision with which they deliver the various melodies. They do this with such aplomb that they can repeat the same trick multiple times on songs like “After All,” “Where Are Your People,” and “Rivers Of Blood” without it getting at all stale. The track on which they do this best is “Visionary,” which incorporates squelchy electronics and a particularly bouncy drum line to get things really moving.
When We Have Band step outside of this formula they have varying degrees of success. Ternion’s two central tracks, “What’s Mine, What’s Yours” and “Steel In The Groove” are two such tracks. “What’s Mine What’s Yours” is almost a slow jam by Ternion’s standards, in which Darren Bancroft laments about possession in a relationship over bright arpeggiated blips while some rhythm keeps the song moving. The song isn’t bad, but never really takes flight in the way others on the record do. “Steel In The Groove” represents We Have Band in their most art-rock guises, using chopped up synths and vocals to create a jerky rhythm over which Banfield sings softly and soulfully. It’s certainly an interesting sounding track, but one that won’t leave much of an impression. Neither of these two songs are bad, but they are the runts of the album and it’s a shame that they had to come back to back right in the middle.
Fortunately, the second half picks up quickly and it’s the album’s concluding “Pressure On” that marks the biggest and most successful departure for the band. In the traditional style of ending albums, We Have Band have gone for something much softer to conclude, completely eschewing the large drums that are ubiquitous elsewhere on the album; instead the only percussion here is some lightly brushed cymbals. Dede Wegg-Prosser takes vocal duties on this one and her heavenly softly-sung words intermingle with whispers and intertwining oozing synths to provide the perfect come down.
By the end of the album We Have Band sound tired, and who can blame them, they’ve created an album packed with intensity pretty much from start to finish. There’s still that certain something lacking from their music that makes you sit up and go “wow,” but Ternion is a greatly entertaining album with plenty of replay value, especially in those stand out tracks.
Plugging away since 1999, The National finally hit mainstream success with the release of their 2010 album High Violet. Of course, this entailed their first world tour, but in the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers, it’s only the backdrop for the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger brother Tom, who had no idea that these short videos he was shooting would turn into a public document of their troubled, if still loving brotherhood.
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