It’s 2003 up at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. A time for dodgy fringe haircuts, jeans under skirts, uneasy colour combinations, a new nationwide love for indie rock bands, Peep Show, David Beckham’s pony tail, Nokia bricks, I could go on. During this year, three rather strange but somewhat charismatic blokes bond together over their love for this style of music. This trio includes a rather lost but thoughtful writer and vocalist by the name of Matthew, your average Dan who is handy with drumsticks, and then one very impressive Norwegian who is managing to combine learning how to play bass effectively with learning to understand scouse people. Quite frankly it’s probably just as difficult as it sounds.
Matthew is a complicated hopeless romantic, this being represented by his messy teenage hair and his fun attitude to music yet disappointed, deep-in-thought facial expression to go with a college punk 2000s Billie Joe Armstrong fashion sense. A black shirt and tie held up by some brightly coloured trousers, probably chinos. That’s basically what their music turned out to sound like through EP’s, to an exclusive Japanese album release, right through to this album, A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation. A record to tell you how the ‘indie’ kids of Britain deal with shivering anxiety, and females driving their hearts off a bridge into a sinking swamp. Important education.
This album is almost like a very English lyrical representation of the show How I Met Your Mother, without the romantic ending. Falling in love with ‘Stripper Patricia’, being jealous of the businessmen she’s dancing on and their beards, getting ‘slapped’ by a girl at a disco after a date because of a rubbish pick up line, and dancing away some sorrows to Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division only to realise it’s his peak level of happiness, and relishing these recovery periods is his main source of dopamine. If this is a rom com, kill the director. He has an impressively terrible love life. He would fall in love as quick as he’d get rejected. I’m glad for his sake he’s married with kids now. However, there is an admirable amount of positive light he sheds onto his romantic failures through the extremely upbeat sound. It sounds like it was probably used for something like a Butlins advert in 2008 whilst also making you imagine a swarm of bucket hats heading to the 2018 Reading Festival main stage. In a good way.
Their music makes them sound like they were the boys who would very publicly listen to the cool kid bands like The Strokes and The Libertines and follow the 2000s band trends, and whilst certainly enjoying them, they couldn’t help but love a bit of Capital FM on long drives. Drummer Dan has even expressed his love for Katy Perry in an interview, so this may well be the case. Their colourful stage appearance goes hand in hand with their sunny chords, Matthew’s loud and enthusiastic singing voice and the regular high pitched background ‘ooooo’s to support the songs bringing the pop genre into their original sound. They set out to spread fun and enjoyment through their music despite some depressing lyrics, so you have to respect it.
Not your typical band, not the one everyone fantasises about. Not the one to gain a whole lot of respect from the hardcore classic rock fans, punk fans would certainly not want to include them in their category, and Britpop lovers will probably turn a blind eye due to the sheer self-deprecation of the lyrics. No evidence of the arrogance which is typically loved by the people. But they have catchy tunes and they’re independent, talented musicians so they will wear that on their sleeve as they say.