Straight Lines – Freaks Like Us
‘Freaks Like Us’ is the second album from Pontypridd’s Straight Lines. Having set the bar extraordinarily high with debut, ‘Persistence in this Game’, this long-awaited and hotly-anticipated follow-up was very welcome on my doormat.
Those who saw Straight Lines touring with Canterbury in January would have received a flyer entitling them to a free download of the single ‘Freaks Like Us’, which was just a taste for what was to come in the full album. Fast forward to March 31st and the band released a teaser trailer for the album, showcasing ‘The Dealer’s Hand’ and preparing fans for a fresh, more aggressive style running alongside the more recognisable title track. The scene was set for a wonderful follow-up to album # 1, and it certainly did not disappoint.
‘Freaks Like Us’ opens with the aforementioned title track, an explosive and energetic introduction to what is to follow. If you’re not already singing along by the end, then second track and second single ‘Commitments’ will certainly sort that out. ‘Commitments’ is not only my favourite song on this album, but one of my favourite songs full stop. They have played a blinder with a chorus that is as close to perfection as it gets, and a great concept for the accompanying video. Probably better to avoid listening to it in public though if you’re easily embarrassed, as I would dare anyone to not feel the need to sing their heart out to lyrics such as: ‘You’re young and you’re wild and running free’ (speaking from experience)!
The album continues with the kind of infectious, fast-paced musical energy that we have come to expect from Straight Lines. There does seem to have been some development from ‘Persistence in this Game’, with a little more ambition in the vocal and instrumental range. This is well evidenced in the more aggressive tracks, ‘Empty Chest’ and ‘The Dealer’s Hand’ which showcase frontman Tom Jenkins giving screaming a go. In addition to the technical development, the track ‘Ring The Bells’, shows development from Persistence in this Game, as it seems to serve as a ‘sequel’ to ‘All My Friends Have Joined The Army’.
After the speed and energy is built up steadily through the first eight songs, the tone of the album is mellowed out with the slightly more melancholic penultimate and thoughtful track, ‘Bury My Thoughts’. Rather than being a gratuitous, token ‘slow’ song, it calms the pace built up throughout the album, and builds nicely into the closing track.
The wonderful ‘So Many Paths’ ends the album on a more pensive note, which carries the essence of the perfect closing and the band have used on their recent shows to finish their set very well. It incorporates well-thought-out lyrics, a tight guitar solo, and a marvellous ending, in which Jenkins’ vocals ring out hauntingly over minimal guitars, before building into its dramatic, bordering on anthemic climax.
‘Freaks Like Us’ is, altogether, a great album. In lieu of pretence or over-complexity, the band have stuck to their guns and done what works for them, and done it well. If this was ‘the difficult second album’, then Straight Lines have it nailed.
Look out for an interview with Straight Lines on this site very soon.