Released April 4th
The Pigeon Detectives haven’t been away for long. Since 2008’s release Emergency they were meant to take some time out, but just over two years later, they return with their third studio album and a rather hotch-potched sound.
At first, The Pigeon Detectives knock you clean off your feet. Opener ‘She Wants Me’ begins with some synth and vocals that lure you into thinking that this isn’t a conventional Pigeon Detectives album. It’s warm and sunny, with a thick and dense sound which soon gives way to the a variation of the classic guitar riff we have come to expect from them, making this a surprising premier track. But in reality, it’s like a book about a pony with a beautiful image of city scapes on the cover – nonsensical and deceiving.
Here on in, we are mostly in classic Pigeon Detectives territory – inoffensive, simple and clean-cut indie-pop. In the four years that they have been making music, they haven’t felt the need to carry out a massive overhaul of their musical sound, and this comes through in the record. We are still playfully accosted by Yorkshire vocals, with repetitive guitars and melodies that are predictable and easy on the ears. And although this isn’t necessarily a criticism, it does mean that they are getting somewhat left behind – I wonder whether this sound that epitomises the quintet is what audiences want to hear anymore. And in a music scene where the likes of The View, The Wombats and The Vaccines are producing exceptional music that surprises and pushes boundaries, Up, Guards and at ‘Em is unlikely to get half the credit it deserves.
Yet this isn’t an album without merit. It may not tear up the charts over the next few weeks, but it’s an unswervingly positive record from start to finish, with some very interesting and subtle orchestration at times that could very easily go unnoticed. ‘Go at It Completely’ for example has some wobbly synth woven through it that sounds exactly like 1990s Lightening Seeds, an observation that is by no means a criticism. It’s charming and chirpy, with vocals that are sugary sweet. The chorus has the rather Pigeon Detective-esque quality of relentless repetition, but for once this doesn’t grate on the consciousness. The lovely simple guitar riff that plays out the song is also another saving grace.
Another highlight comes in the form of ‘Lost’. Unlike the television series of the same name, this track makes perfect musical sense – its vocals fall somewhere between the Yorkshire shout-come-sing we are used to, and a soaring stunning voice that no-one was really expecting, whilst the guitars are much less harsh than the sound we have come to anticipate. It’s upbeat in a subtle and discreet way, not shouting for your attention, but washing over your consciousness like waves of cool and refreshing air, a real musical achievement.
Overall, Up, Guards and at ‘Em! is a solid record that fans of The Pigeon Detectives will love, but one that is unlikely to last on the musical consciousness of the mainstream – it’s brilliance when it comes is too subtle to be taken note of, making it sound a little too much like Emergency 2.0. But allow it to grow on you, and you will be impressed.
Good: Solid Pigeon Detective sound that sometimes displays some wonderful orchestration that was not expected
Bad: A great and unexpected opening track left the majority of the rest of the album feeling a little flat and uninspired