Review: The LaFontaines – Common Problem

If you were to put the iconic sound of Def Leppard into a blender with the indie charm of Biffy Clyro, the blitzed up end product would be The LaFontaines, a perfectly typical indie band.

Putting cynicism to one side, their latest album holds promise for the group. Although primarily anchored in the indie genre, some of its branches stretch as far as electronic and rap to explore the turbulence of modern existence through music.

The precise issues that govern this motif are not always specified in the album; however, its title indicates that the band is striving to recreate the feeling of apocalyptic unity that was famously tapped into by 80s electro bands like Ultravox.

Whilst The LaFontaines are producing music in a distinctly dissimilar political climate to the one that existed 30 years ago, their tracks examine the fear that plagues contemporary society in a similarly effective and punchy way.

The band appear to have written a sequence of songs that works as both an album and a sonic bildungsroman: titles such as ‘Torture’, ‘Armour’ and ‘What Do I Know’ suggest the growth that bandmembers endure personally and collectively during the process of making music. Throughout the album, it feels as if the band are sharing their experiences of music production, from their debut collection, up until their most recent creation.

There are moments where Common Problem seems like a poetic sequence set to music; each song relies heavily on rap and Oken’s attractive, Scottish accent to drive the gritty content of the verses forward towards the more melodic choruses and bridges.

Whilst not typically associated with the indie genre, the recurring feature of rap is what gives the album a sense of appeal. There are certain points in the collection, however, where this novelty becomes commonplace; where songs a few songs seem to follow an identical pattern of music.

In spite of this, avid indie fans will relish songs like ‘Release The Hounds’ and the titular track of the album, which both quickly develop into pieces fitting for a summer festival.

‘Torture’ and ‘Asleep’, in contrast, are both more intense in terms of theme and music, and are both dominated by dark lyrical content. ‘Goldmine’ and ‘Total Control’’, conversely, are each ideal songs for stadium performances; the vibe created by both  would be more than enough to enliven a large crowd.

Common Problems is certainly not a collection built on sugar-pop anthems; it is indie-rock poetry written for an audience that is well-versed in the common problems of modern society.

Although this listener is uncertain as to what precisely this universal issue is (perhaps album no.3 will provide an answer booklet?), The LaFontaines have created a comfortable blend of rock, electronic, folk and rap that will undoubtedly entice a raft of potential fans.

Here is a concrete – or rather auditory – example of their attempt to explore a different, more daring style of music.

Sam Meleady

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