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Archive Material Zara Hedderman , January 20th, 2022 08:51

Dublin's Silverbacks bring a breath of fun and fresh air to a sound evocative of early 00s indie records, finds Zara Hedderman

The past is omnipresent. Across culture, consumers of music, film and books draw comfort from the familiarity of a bygone era. Whether it’s a genre tethered to a particular scene or an aesthetically pleasing replication of 1970s interiors in film, that pervading sense of other becomes an essential path towards escapism. A momentary pause from the present. Sonically, this is a prevalent theme across Silverbacks’ excellently crafted (and aptly titled) second record, Archive Material.

The follow-up to the Dublin-based quintet’s equally exuberant 2020 debut Fad is a cohesive amalgamation of past and present in its style and stories. Tonally, Silverbacks’ angular arrangements sparked with searing guitar riffs with an occasional Tom Verlaine inflection on vocalist Daniel O’Kelly’s delivery (see: ‘Econymo’) often suggest Television’s Marquee Moon, an album cited by the band as a core influence on their sound. The rumble of New York’s indie scene leads the way on ‘Different Kind of Holiday’ which has tendencies of early-period The Rapture’s darker soundscapes. These enveloping compositions provide a striking backdrop to the consciousness of current global happenings, namely the effects of Covid-19, in some of their lyricsim, notably ‘A Job Worth Something’ on which O’Kelly ruminates on his experience working in insurance while his sister treated patients in a Covid ward in hospital.

Most poignantly, with regard to the lingering of their past selves, there are several instances across Silverbacks’ latest release which feel as though they’re looking over their shoulders, giving a nod and wink to the musicians they were when they recorded their debut. These moments manifest as returning phrases, albeit with slight modifications, such as “They’re not our people,” initially heard on Fad’s ‘Drink It Down’, their disdain now articulated with increasing finality with ‘They Were Never Our People’. Its slick bass groove, punctuated with spiked guitar riffs, becomes an immediately irresistible number for its wry view of posers in hipster bars, favouring a more lived-in watering hole: “Let’s head to the joint where the people don’t point and the carpet smells of rain,” intones O’Kelly. It’s one of many occasions where their colloquial songwriting completely endears the listener, and makes you want to hang out with the characters navigating the various settings within the songs for as long as possible.

Elsewhere, the Broadcast-like sensibilities buzzing throughout the ethereal looped instrumental ‘Carshade’ feel like a continuation of ‘Dud’ and ‘Travel Lodge Punk’ from their previous work. This transportive piece, an undeniable highlight of Archive Material, also complements guitarist Kilian O'Kelly's sublime solo LP, Luzhny’s Layer, released in 2020. Furthermore, amongst the LP’s many revelations, and display of artistic assuredness, is the increased vocal prominence of bassist Emma Hanlon. ‘Wear My Medals’ hears Hanlon take the lead, her sweet timbre proffering a counterpoint to the densely layered arrangement. One that has shadows of Stereolab cast upon the electronic textures introduced towards the tracks final moments. Similarly, the gorgeous allure emanating from closing track ‘I’m Wild’ benefits from Hanlon’s weightless cadence, which often evokes a similarity to the late Trish Keenan, floating above the irresistibly chunky guitar inflections as they announce the chorus and woozy synth parts that unexpectedly arrive, escorting us out of this multi-dimensional soundscape. With Archive Material, Silverbacks bring so much fun, personality, and excellent musicianship across their songs. It’s a record that, once again, confirms a bright future ahead.