O.Children first darkened the sweat pits of the East End live scene a couple of years back with a brand of gloom rock that immediately stood out from the rest of the up and coming indie acts emerging at that time. What set them apart was lead singer Tobi O’Kandi, a fascinating front man, 6 foot 8”, black, with a great line in stage pouts and lavish hand movements. His rumbling baritone voice was backed by a bunch of musicians who understood how you can be understated and anthemic at the same and by channelling the best of early mid to 80s post-punk such as Joy Division, Bauhaus and The Mission; they inadvertently heralded a new found acceptance of sullen boys doing goth.
Since their 2010 debut other bands such as Toy and SCUM have taken what O. Children started and gone down the ‘indie band do something a bit krautrocky’ route, O. Children on the other hand have obviously being catching up on pop music whilst keeping an eye on what’s bubbling up on the London indie underground. The two tracks that previewed the album have received a generally meh reaction but they proved like many of the other songs on the album to be real growers. The chugging grind of ‘PT cruiser’ initially sounds like an ok rock track but soon reveals itself to be a pumped up beast which within the context of the album is a real corker , the mechanic beats and uplifting Chapterhouse influenced riffs lifts the album from its chilled state and sets up the second half as being a thriller.
‘Oceanside’ is laidback, weary and beaten, its smooth pop laced with considered lethargy, O’Kandi crooning “You think you show your good side, standing’ on your own, there finally comes another man, one to take you home”. The subject of ending relationships is revisited on ‘I know you love me’, the biggest departure musically; the ‘Summer lovin’’ style chants of the title word by the band back Toby’s documenting his cheating ways “Don’t need any reason, honey, that’s why I keep on cheating’ lady, In your eyes I am an angel but in truth I’m only human”. The dreamy guitars nod to ‘Wish’ era Cure, it gives great pop and shows how they may dress like Joy Division but behind closed doors they get their rocks off to Azelia Banks and why not?
Granted, the moping of the band of past is still there, opening track ‘Holy Wood’ is all desolate atmospherics with electronic ambience and shimmering apprehensive guitar strokes, all elements building together to create grinding post punk, it’s how an album should begin. The frenetic jitter on ‘Yours for you’ is the kind of noise Bloc Party should be looking to make now returned from their hiatus while ‘Solid Eyes’ has the kind of louche swagger you can only achieve with late nights and skinny hips.
Despite its doomy title, ‘Apnea’ is a concerted attempt to move into something more sophisticated, there’s much less angst here and by not allowing the guitar to take the centre stage the band are given space to breathe, thus revealing a surprising funky element to the rhythm section. An example of this is on ‘H8 City’, the metronomic hip hop beats are smothered with warm uplifting strokes of arpeggiated synth, it’s a noticeable shift to something more challenging and it sounds like the change came with ease.
As the record plays you can actually hear the bands realisation that they are leaving their contemporaries behind. 8/10