iLiKETRAiNS Elegies To Lessons Learned(Beggars Banquet) Buy it from Insound
Is it so wrong of us to suspect that the trains they're fondest of lead directly to Rye? After all, last year's excellent Progress Reform was suggestive of a band overly au fait with the aesthetic sensibilities of some of the more memorable performances witnessed in that neck of the woods at All Tomorrow's Parties, and, in stark contrast to many of the laurels-resting second efforts released this year, they've raised their game dramatically with their sophomore album to such an extent that they're demanding an invitation not merely to attend but to curate.
Really, the sheer scope of Elegies To Lessons Learned is unarguably astonishing, almost to the point where singling out tracks seems a tad unfair to the sheer overwhelming immersion it engenders taken in its epic entirety. Nonetheless, it's a journey dappled with high points: singles Spencer Perceval, which charges recklessly towards the ten-minute mark in an inferno of concentric twangs, and the even better The Deception, which blurs and chimes along in a fashion recalling the old NME description of My Bloody Valentine's work as "pop songs that had fallen in with the wrong crowd", may already be familiar, but there's plenty more to adore. Epiphany, for instance, is a hypnotic wash that comes as a welcome fracture to the intensity that precedes it (in a fashion not dissimilar to Otterley on the Cocteaus' Treasure, thrillingly enough), while the opening We All Fall Down erupts in on a fearsome quake and continues in a flurry of dark crescendos that wouldn't have shamed prime Mogwai.
Thematically, too, it's a particularly bold step, placing itself courageously into the pantheon of concept albums by endeavouring to work as a chronal travelogue of tragedies ranging from Prime Ministerial assassination to the Salem witch trials, and, as you might imagine, it's remorselessly bleak - hell, death even stalks the tracklisting, and lyrics like "you are a cancer" (Death Of An Idealist) and "the gallows tree, she calls for me by name" (The Voice Of Reason) add heavily to its morbid timbre. David Martin's vocals, thankfully, are perfectly suited to this, since he's squarely in the dark tradition that takes in the sombre gravitas of Nick Cave, the macabre confrontation of Paul Vickers and the lugubrious bruises of Paul Banks, and the lachrymose guitar gymnastics are complemented by a fractured bass minimalism and haunted, militaristic drumming that adds up to an experience that registers quite highly on the Godspeed...! scale while enchanting in its own right.
It is, admittedly, not quite the stratospheric experience of their live shows, but their use of film in that capacity has elevated them beyond expectation, and, besides, it's seldom argued that Orbital or Black Box Recorded albums don't stand up without the visual accompaniment, and the same can be said here. A work of remarkable beauty, Elegies To Lessons Learned contains far more reasons to be cheerful than it reasonably should, and if you're looking for post-rock done properly then iLiKETRAiNS are more than on the right lines.26 October, 2007 - 16:06 — Iain Moffat