Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Album Review: Pure Love - Anthems

Album Rating: B
It’s almost impossible not to start a review of Pure Love’s début album Anthems without first mentioning British hardcore band Gallows. For the first 6 years of their existence, Gallows were fronted by one of the angriest men in music. His lyrics were venomous, his interviews were hate-filled and his live performances were furious, with insults often hurled into the crowd for no particular reason other than to enjoy their reactions. Citing creative differences in his split from Gallows, that frontman was Frank Carter. And the word was really is imperative here, as the Frank Carter who croons for Pure Love is unrecognisable from his earlier, angrier incarnation.

When Carter sings, “I’m so sick of singing about hate, it’s never gonna make a change, it breaks me down bit by bit” at the beginning of lead single “Bury my Bones,” we’re afforded a not-so-subtle glimpse into the discontent that prompted his split from Gallows in 2011. Given that he once proclaimed that “bands who use anger as a gimmick are just fucking insulting,” it’s a safe assumption that Carter felt he was in danger of becoming a hypocrite and falling victim to the very stereotype he repulsed. This extraordinary change of heart has resulted in a radical musical departure, and it makes Pure Love a strangely endearing proposition, not only because of the tongue-in-cheek irony of the band’s name, but because Carter exceeds all expectations and emerges an accomplished singer.

Unsurprisingly, Anthems is built on huge choruses and irresistible hooks, and every song contains at least a jaunty riff, a catchy chorus or an interesting bridge. This means that Anthems not only lives up to the criteria implied by its name, but it also ensures that at least one of the songs will get caught in that part of your brain which has a knack for memorable melodies. One of the ways Pure Love succeed in doing this is by replicating styles from bands we’re all familiar with, and whether it’s the unmistakably Oasis vibe on “Beach Of Diamonds” or the glam rock homage to The Darkness found on “Bury My Bones,” it instantly connects the listener to radio hits gone-by and proves an enjoyable listen. Elsewhere, pensive title track “Anthem” features distant, layered vocals and a wandering piano line in a jazz-tinged effort which sees Pure Love at their most experimental. Finally, album closer “March of the Pilgrims” sees Carter’s strongest vocal performance highlighted by an acapella mid-section, and makes the strongest case for his credentials as a mainstream vocalist.

It’s true that after repeated listening Anthems loses some of its charm as the songs here lack depth, and it’s also true that for listeners unfamiliar with Frank Carter and his history, the surprise and curiosity which contributes greatly to the album’s appeal will likely be missing. These reservations aside, Anthems proves itself to be an entertaining and surprisingly solid listen, and sees the metamorphosis of a tattooed hardcore vocalist into a suit-clad crooner who may grace the radio in years to come.

1. She (Makes The Devil Run Through Me)
2. Bury My Bones
3. The Hits
4. Anthem
5. Beach Of Diamonds
6. Handsome Devils Club
7. Heavy Kind Of Chain
8. Burning Love
9. Scared To Death
10. Riot Song
11. March Of The Pilgrims

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