LAC – Borstal Boy EP
aaamusic | On 30, Apr 2013
Okay. I’ll confess. The moment I saw a press release proclaiming “gritty everyday life” and “real poetic flavour” I did cringe and set it on the procrastinate pile. I get bored of Hollyoaks-the-musical bands trying to be profound, I guess. But upon listening to LAC’s ‘Borstal Boy EP’ I’m left feeling that there is something more to be found than a cynical marketing appeal to the whole “broken Britain” mentality, but at the same time, a few sixth form poetry moments, over-familiar songs, and a weird cliché laddishness to it all means I’m left feeling that while LAC hit some powerful moments, they have a way to go before they hit their stride.
The two electric tracks, for all their lyrical darkness, both hold a jaunty riff style, with snarling, distorted twin guitar assaults, chugging drums, and bass low in the mix. The guitar tones are similar, both never veering too far from a dirty rock tone that sounds like it spends most nights jumping around a pub venue whose floor has seen so much booze it has started eating the shoes of any punters unfortunate enough to stand still. Yet the lead/rhythm interplay is sold and interesting enough to keep the two distinct and keep the listener interested. ‘Dead Generation’ is clearly trying to be an anthem, the lyrics a mantra-drenched affair that plays out like a breakup song aimed at society’s naysayers. The predictable melodies and song structure complete with clap-along-now snare and vocals break, and gang vocals in the chorus refrain are blatantly written with mass singalongs in mind, and it can’t help but feel a little contrived, even if it does stick in the mind. Given this uneasy air of pretension, the proto-punk garage style of ‘When I’m Around’ with its brief walking bassline-style licks, catchy melodies, and pogo-friendly tempo feels like a relief. Okay, so the laddish punk rock style drags a bit, and it really is all a bit “waheeeyyy” in the manner that means even a greasy rocker like me would feel a bit iffy about being female in the general vicinity of it all, but at least it feels heartfelt, the band sound more in their element, and it is played with energy and real passion. And the background vocal woops and building guitars, and even the knees-up ending of na-na-na-oi-oi-oi, is carried off with a cheeky sense of fun.
The saving grace of this EP, really, is its acoustic title track, ‘Borstal Boy’. Despite the oddly jaunty ballad-esque guitar line, the gently reverb-ed, raw vocals bleed out a bleak, blunt tale of sadness. The vocals, with the hushed rasp of delivery and contrasts between mournful hush and vocal chord straining howls of emotion are compelling to listen to.
LAC have a long way to go yet. Their songs can’t seem to decide if it’s a night out at the pub laughing at the bleak reality of the world, or a bit of a lads’ club, or something genuinely thoughtful and considered. The instrumentation too feels a bit confused and slapdash in that respect. It’s a worthy shot, but I still can’t quite find a reason to leap into this band as the next great musical voice of the “real world”.