- by Steve Reynolds Release Date:2017-02-17 Label: Beggars Arkive
Everyone has a band that has fallen and you’ve ruffled your worried brow in disbelief that more people didn’t sit up and take notice. For me one of those bands was Six By Seven.
Sat between a caustic merge of noise, harsh guitar parts and Chris Olley’s dark lyrics they seemed a given to make a success in the business. Their debut ‘The Things We Make’ came out in 1998 and although it didn’t dent the charts it did lay the groundwork for this, their second album ‘The Closer You Get’ which was initially released in 2000 and is now a re-release in 2017 possibly due to two gigs in March with the original line-up that made the album.
Whilst the band’s debut had a connection, this second album saw the band in a much more buoyant place personified by the opening bars of ‘Eat Junk, Become Junk’ which ended up being worn by Kele from Bloc Party on a t shirt, to such a degree people thought it was from his band. However let’s not take away the awesome power and clean arrangements on ‘Eat Junk…’. The vibrant guitars bounce off each other perfectly whilst Olley tells us that if you “Eat Junk, you become junk, I never broke no law no”. The pace doesn’t let up when ‘Sawn Off Metallic T-Shirt’ hits the lugholes. A song of just over 2 minutes, packed with a breakneck pace and Olley screaming “I’ve got a pretty bad fucking haircut, I’ve got a backseat for a bed”.
There’s a great deal of twitchy band tension on this album and the tightly wound members put this across in their music with the quite brilliant ‘Ten Places To Die’. A slow burner of a track that lights up halfway through and descends into a malaise of cathartic power. ‘New Year’ is of similar intensity but it swoops and soars instead and with Olley’s mainline chorus: I wanna reach out, and I wanna stay, how can I lose, if I refuse to fail”.
The mainframe of Six By Seven’s framework is their ability to create a wall of sound that is so monolithic you haven’t a fucking prayer of climbing over it. Yes it is malevolent at times but it’s also soothingly uplifting and effortlessly cool.
‘My Life Is An Accident’ is more sedate in arrangement but still maintains their trademark menacing aurora. Packed out with layers of alien guitar that brood and brood until they can’t keep a lid on it any further it’s like letting a pack of bulldogs off the leash when the bludgeoning six strings take the centre stage and beat the living shit out of us. In some ways it seems possessed by the atonal noise parts of Sonic Youth’s ‘Diamond Sea’.
Whilst their debut was a masterclass in long songs ‘The Closer You Get’ has its fair share of shorter numbers reflected in the mid to latter part of the album with the high energy ‘Don’t Wanna Stop’ and ‘Slab Square’ both of which clock in at less than three minutes apiece but still ably equipped with enough of a draw to have you fully mesmerised by their output. Olley puts warts and all into his shredding vocal: “I’ll meet you there down in slab square, we’ll make a pair, I wanna shake the sky, C’mon and shake the sky”
It’s lighters ahoy on the mellifluous melancholy of ‘England & A Broken Radio’. Olley’s lyrics are kept lo-fi, seemingly sung through a redundant cassette microphone and accompanied by a metronomic beat and jagged guitar compliments perfectly.
‘Another Love Song’ takes another twist. A plethora of mellow electronic beats are quickly joined up by the soaring keyboard and crashing drums which have the intensity of a man drumming for food. The layers jump up again when the guitars crash in and all in all we have a fucking party. This is the least love song you could ever have. It has no frills, no jolliness, just sheer belligerent parcels of blackness. ‘Overnight Success’ is so similar ilk and maintains a rich high-water mark of output.
The mellowest moment is saved for closer ‘100 And Something Foxhall Road’. The guitars are retired, well almost and replaced by all things percussion and one note keyboard. Olley tells us: “The Dream Is Sweeter Than The Taste”. Maybe he’s right but when he looks back on the back catalogue of Six By Seven he might just scream out this was our best album. ‘The Closer You Get’ is a lost classic and hugely understated. I dare you not to wallow in its simple brilliance.