Thursday, 19 December 2013

Album of the Week #6

Artist: Detroit Social Club
Album: Existence
Year: 2010
Label: Polydor

Although defunct North-East bands from the late 00s aren't usually my speciality, I have to reserve special praise for this six-piece for whom I had (and still have) a lot of love for. In the midst of a pretty impressive year for album releases - Kanye West, The National and Arcade Fire all released career-defining efforts - Existence never really got the attention that it deserved. Despite support slots with the likes of Ian Brown, Primal Scream and Oasis, together with a 2010 Glastonbury appearance, the band regrettably split up in early 2011, with frontman David Burn electing to concentrate on his career as a music producer. Months after releasing their debut album they even left their record label Polydor and set up their own - the cunningly titled Fuck Pop - to release subsequent single I Am Revolution, which is also a cracker.

But where were we? Oh yeah. Existence. It hits you like a train. After a slow, brooding build-up for epic opener Kiss the Sun, it explodes into an anthemic, furious, gospel-like track which really sets the tone for the rest of the album. And anthemic has to be the buzzword here. Guitars, synths, pounding drums,'s a whole cacophony of noise that has been expertly controlled and nurtured: no song here feels overblown or overdone in any way. It's OK throwing all these ideas into the ring - and clearly Detroit Social Club had loads - but managing the mixing pot and making sure all of those elements blend together well is something else entirely.

Despite the generally frenetic pace that the band set, after Kiss the Sun comes the delicate, string-laden ballad Northern Man, which you may or may not have heard gracing the interludes of Sky Sports News. Who said these guys were unknowns!? It offers a great counterpoint to the fast-paced opener, even if it doesn't exactly give an indication of things to come.

Even throughout the slower, more delicate efforts from the group, none of the anthemic soundscapes and epic atmospheres are lost, which are something of a trademark for the group. It is a remarkably assured effort for a debut album and it is even more impressive that they had managed to already carve out a trademark sound that has echoes of several influences - think 90s Brit Pop and 70s gospel and soul - yet remain pretty unique in their own right.

Although the album is packed-full of singalong anthems, punchy choruses and LOUD NOISES, the expert songwriting behind the glitz and grandeur cannot be overstated. No song feels too long, has too many verses or too many bridges, and that is symbolic of the assured sound throughout that has already been mentioned. Whilst some bands may have been overly tempted by the lure of adding a few extra minutes onto every song, Detroit Social Club resisted that and, discounting the hidden track, just one song exceeds five minutes (5:01!).

Around six songs in you start to feel a little worn out by the unrelenting pace - so it's a blessing that the final three songs take on an altogether different vibe. Jangly guitars, tribal drums and lovely vocal harmonies guide the listener through to the end, and it's quite a journey. What a shame that Detroit Social Club broke up before they really realised their potential. I Am Revolution gave an exciting glimpse of the direction that they were looking to take, but perhaps overflowing frustrations with the music industry cut short the lifespan of a once-promising group. I doubt they were the first, and I doubt they will be the last.

Check the album out on Spotify below.

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