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Cities                                         Variations

  Yep Roc  
Release Dates:
  18.April.2006                               3.October.2006  
Reviewed by:
  Brett Spaceman  

In the USA, music of this ilk is considered "Brit-influenced". The problem the UK faces now is the abundance of American bands doing this stuff far better than their British counterparts. Nice problem! (For us listeners.) Cities hail from North Carolina and add their 10 cents worth to a scene already illuminated by the likes of Snowden, Film School, and She Wants Revenge. My first introduction was the masterpiece Writing On the Wall. A dead-ringer for Interpol, this track won me over instantly with its soaring guitars and Josh Nowlan's barely concealed rage. Flammable material this! Approach with caution.

A Theme launches the self-titled album, tipping its hat briefly to Interpol's Antics, before embarking on a standard indie stomp a la Doves' Pounding. Clearly the effect Cities strive for is one of contrast. "Can we blend spiky, discordant alt-rock with dancier beats?" they probably debated at the Business Planning Stage. They may have been wiser to concentrate on tunes rather than the un-melodic, torturous strains of something like Capitol, which is music that seems completely at odds with the notion of having a good time. Cities crank the angst further still on Lakes, whose intense anguish emulates Puressence's climactic India without scaling the same giddy heights.

As we pass the halfway point, tracks such as Headstream and Lounge Act leave me fondly nostalgic for Film School. Where that album felt like a cohesive work, Cities is somehow half-formed. I'd hesitate to say stillborn, but this was evidently a troubled birth. Doubtless Cities are capable of something grandiose, but as I approach the finish I still find myself waiting for something to happen.

So to the mixes. Ladytron's re-interpretation of Writing On the Wall is excellent. An indie clubber's wet dream, this is a typical soft edged, Ladytron makeover. If Giorgio Moroder had produced Bauhaus instead of Human League. it might have sounded something like this. Good mix, but the original takes some beating for my money. Fog provide an arresting version of OOC with their Black Metal Mix, using screeching electronics to punctuate the gothic minimalism.

It's difficult to understand the intention behind these mixes. Were they an all-out assault on club land or merely providing added interest to what is more or less the same set? Sitting through re-interpretations by the likes of Mild Davis and Daedelus, heaven only knows what club they had in mind? Late night, lonely hearts club for manic-depressive robots? Now I understand why Marvin the Paranoid Android, was paranoid! Yet I'm strangely drawn to the Free The Robots remix of Capitol. The final mix by Mike Westbrook, apparently a contest winner, is probably the pick of the bunch.

Personally, I'd have preferred to have these tracks on one release rather than the two separate ones. I can't help wondering whether Cites were torn between two paths stabbing, doom-rock or the indie club? Maybe these two releases evidence this dilemma? The overall effect is one of nearly but not quite. Am I missing something? Despite this, I instinctively get the impression Cities are capable of something significant. WOTW suggests so. Maybe WOTW will turn out to be their Creep? A shining ray of hope on an otherwise unfulfilled landscape.

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