Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Album Review: LOSTPROPHETS - The Betrayed (Visible Noise)

I bet you forgot about them. For quite some time, the Welsh wonders were all over the UK rock press, being all arrogant and "American" and cocky and trendy and all sorts of things that confused pretty much everyone who had actually met them. No doubt there were many sniggers and "told you so's" when stories of the fourth album's initial sessions being scrapped because the band simply weren't happy with them. Prima Donnas, clearly. Or possibly because they wanted to have a decent crack at the thing entirely by themselves. After all, it's not like they didn't have a band member in bassist Stuart Richardson who wasn't able to handle production duties themselves.

It certainly starts off confidently. If It Wasn't For Hate, We'd be Dead by Now strides in on the kind of drum loop that Trent Reznor wanted to copyright before a towering hook rolls thing along swiftly. Dstryr/Dstryr then wallops you round the chops into oblivion. It's four-and-a-half-minutes of relentless riffery complete with an anthemic chorus and hook, a calm before the moshing storm and a bit of shred too. It also becomes one of the best things they've done pretty much immediately. We then cut to the singles one-two of It's Not the End of the World... and Where We Belong, both of which give superb chorus. Next Stop Atro City then bursts through waving their Metal! baton and serves up a bit of double-pedal too.

In comparison, the second half of the record is far less frenetic, but no less pleasing. The likes of A Better Nothing and Darkest Blue both represent a particular epic approach to the "pop-rock" manual that the boyos can claim as their own, while Dirty Little Heart is centred around a classic '8os keyboard line that could easily have fit onto the soundtrack of any John Hughes movie. It then becomes obvious as the record continues that the band have realised what they're genuinely good at and focused on simply making it better. The aforementioned Dstryr/Dstryr is Start Something's Burn Burn, but hooked up to South Wales' premier grid. Where We Belong is Liberation Transmission's Rooftops, but instead of gingerly waving the "Classic Rock" trophy around with shy caution, it holds it aloft with fervent majesty while shouting "It's mine, mine I tell you!".

As expected from what is essentially a solo effort, it's not perfect. For He's a Jolly Good Felon links a nifty New Wave riff and organ to a chorus that is pretty forgettable, while Streets of Nowhere seems to have the mantra "token happy pop song" stamped on it. As a pop song, it's pretty good, but it doesn't seem to fit with what's around it. If anything, it's a great little b-side. There also seems to be an omission of their interpretation of "the quieter ballad" which they were getting rather good at. It's frequently hinted at, but it's only when you get to atmospheric closer The Light That Shines Twice As Bright... that you realise there hasn't been an obvious let-up in the overall pace of the record.

Still, one thing is for certain - this is undeniably and 100% a Lostprophets album. It's even got plenty of that sampling digital doo-hickery between tracks that was missing on their last effort, and that's a good thing. The band built a reputation as a great live band not just for their performance, but their on-stage banter and larking about which always exclaimed "we are bloody well loving this". After previous efforts were limited by budget, a producer's trademarked drum sound and the odd necessary compromise, The Betrayed sounds like the album that Lostprophets have always wanted to make, and the boyos have come up trumps.


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