Review: ‘The Relationship’ EP by Always The Way
February had just decided to throw and early hint of Spring/Summer at us when word came of a new release sent to us to review.
So with the enthusiasm some sun can bring, I found my way to the latest EP release from Always The Way, titled The Relationship.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this is the fourth EP release from the mostly Glasgow-ish/Cummertrees based band. Originally formed as a duo with Ian Gill and Terry Harrop, the band have had various line ups, currently settling as a four piece. The final line-up now features Michelle Doyle (vocals, acoustic guitar, keys), Peter Cartwright (keys, guitar, vocals, drums) along with original members Gill (guitar, vocals) and Harrop (bass and vocals). I wonder if they ever have to practise over Skype?
The band cite influences from Pink Floyd to Manic Street Preachers, and it’s easy to hear those styles coming through in their music. The heavy use of keys and electronic drums is certainly a nod towards New Order, Joy Division and the like.
To give the EP a balanced and fair review, it is necessary to look at it overall and critique each track individually. In all honesty, I found this review, at times, trickier than I had expected.
Catchy, up-beat pop tracks
The three track EP opens with synth/keyboard and vocal-led, ‘Is This Enough’. This is definitely the catchiest track on the EP. The repetitive chorus line does the trick in getting stuck in your head, and I can see audiences joining in. First impressions brought similarities to the likes of early Pulp material. The light and breezy track sets the tone for the EP.
The second track, ‘Getting Back’, continues in the same vein. So much so, on the first full play, I almost thought the first track had repeated! The bass lead riff at the end of each verse and chorus holds the catchy hook of the song. The track is punchy and lively, however the tambourine becomes very distracting, clashing with the electronic drum sound and rhythm.
The final track, ‘Get A Move On’, is arguably the best written song on the EP. In a marked switch from the up-beat pop tracks before, this ballad sits nicely in its place as the closing track. The vocal switch to Peter Cartwright is refreshing, with the lyrical story matching the change in tempo.
On first listen, the catchy lines and repetitive hooks strongly stood out and will gain positive feedback from fans. I was pleased to hear a classic “oh oh…” sing along section in ‘Get a Move On’ and instinctively found myself joining in.
Considering the release overall, it does feel like this EP is lacking some polish, and can be a little rough around some edges. I felt the tracks sometimes lacked small dynamic changes. In the style of their influences, it may have been worth dropping certain instruments in and out of the mix. At times there are three voices plus the instruments together in the mix, making the tracks feel a bit too busy. This may also be because of the close similarities of tracks one and two, as three makes use of gap and shade well.
Relationship status: It’s Complicated…
As mentioned previously, little things like the tambourine become distracting, especially at the fore of the mix. The ending to ‘Get A Move On’ possibly sums my point a little clearer. During the “oh, oh” break, a gradual percussive build in dynamics may have enhanced this. This track (and also “Getting Back”) ends a little abruptly, which is a shame as it is deserving of more. For ‘Is This Enough’, the use of Michelle Doyle’s harmony backing vocals add a nice layer to the track. It was easier to hear when listening to headphones that they tended to shadow the main vocal line. I would have liked Doyle to perhaps have sung the middle section on her own, or in a back and forth style with Harrop akin to The Human League, or Beautiful South. The harmonies are generally spread out and are well used on the other tracks.
Since listening to the EP, I have gone back and listened to the band’s other releases. It is easy to see that they have some interesting musical ideas, and some come across with repeat listens in this EP. It pained me to be critical of what was mostly a positive release for the band. However, I feel in the days of “disposable” music and easy upload, this EP slightly misses its mark.
Rating: 5.5/10. Some nice song ideas lack a little extra production and finish. It would be interesting to hear again with acoustic drums.
Favourite track: ‘Get A Move On’ for variety and use of light and shade… and “oh, oh’s”!
Review by Scott Jordan.
You can listen to this EP via Spotify below. Read our other reviews of Dumfries & Galloway music releases here.