, April 11th, 2008 13:08
It seemed that ¡Forward, Russia! had dropped totally from view after the release of their debut Give Me A Wall. Bar the limited-edition single 'Don't Be A Doctor' and a couple of small gigs, there's been little heard from the Leeds-based post-hardcore dance-punkers. Perhaps, though, they did well to let the taint of "New Yorkshire" fade away. For there's little stereotypically Yorkshire about this band; rather than their home county's legendary down-to-earth pragmatism, their music is all deadly serious, straining after the ineffable, totally irony-free to the point of discomfort.
For their second album, they've distanced themselves from their own label Dance To The Radio by signing with Cooking Vinyl, and further stepped beyond the local scene by recording Life Processes in Seattle with Matt Bayles, formerly of Minus The Bear, and producer of Mastodon and Pearl Jam.
The result is a much bigger-sounding album - where their debut was fractious, frantic and thrashy, Life Processes is spacious, elegiac and grand. It opens on 'Welcome To The Moment's surging momentum, typically charged with do-or-die tension. Tom Woodhead's bizarre voice still twists and jacknifes along the slippery edge between heartbreaking and ludicrous. He sings more clearly than before, though, meaning you can sometimes make out the words; for some this might be a disadvantage, but for others, his obscure, highbrow lyrics are all part of the overblown charm.
On 'We Are Grey Matter' he's screaming about "some quick-tongued lizard with a metal pulse and a bony charming smile," over panicky, clippy drums and shredding shimmering guitar, before promising "we'll bleed your worlds dry". Who knows what the tits he's going on about, but it sounds hellishly exciting.
When the ever-shifting beats per minute drop, though, the heart-mouth-drama can get a little too much. 'Fosbury In Discontent' aims at heartfelt, but lands on mawkish, with only piano and Woodhead's rather over-affected vocal cooing "what more can I say to convince you that I care..."
Thankfully, as well as indulging their epic side, FR have also found a weightier aspect. 'Some Buildings' starts in a Mogwai-like shimmering, post-rock space, but in a brutally heavy metallic riff. 'Gravity & Heat', too, finds Whiskas' guitar sounding more grindcore than post-hardcore. It's a fine album as a whole, and commendably ambitious, but although affecting first single 'Breaking Standing' come close, there's nothing quite as breakneck, breathless and satisfying as 'Twelve' or 'Nine' from 'Give Me A Wall'. Perhaps their life processes have grown up too far.