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London Grammar - Truth is a Beautiful Thing (Album Review)

Monday, 19 June 2017 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

In retrospect it’s unsurprising that the pop trio London Grammar made such waves with their 2013 debut album. After a period in which you couldn’t move without hearing a new noisy house or dubstep artist, minimalism suddenly became appealing again.

Acts adopting softer and dreamier aesthetics, like Washed Out and Beach House, arrived on cue, opening up space for the somewhat derivative London Grammar to do something similar in the UK. But nobody could have foreseen the sheer magnitude of their success. ‘If You Wait’ went double platinum, picked up an Ivor Novello award plus a Brit nomination and even won the approval of then prime minister David Cameron.

Although four whole years have passed since then, the band’s core elements remain the same. Vocalist Hannah Reid is still the focal point for everything they do on their second album, ‘Truth is a Beautiful Thing’, with her distinctive, brooding vibrato wrestling with the reverb-laden textures underneath.

And, to be fair, the band has clearly improved at that front. Whereas Reid’s melodies previously had a tendency to drift towards nothing, they’re this time delivered with purpose. On the Jon Hopkins-produced Big Picture, ghostly guitar unites with galloping snare as the track reaches a stirring conclusion.

There are several of these subtle crescendos littered throughout the record and they undeniably provide scope for Reid to spread her wings. Hell to the Liars swells with theatrical strings and Wild Eyed with subtle brass, while Reid soars alongside both with dramatic proclamations about romantic sorrow.

What’s less convincing is everything in between these parts. Too often London Grammar are merely pleasant rather than engaging. With the exception of the highlights, every track has an identical formula: the band introduce a suitably ambient base while directionless guitar and keys slowly pop up as the track progresses.

There’s little in the way of structure and songs tend to peter out without giving any emotional hook. Non-Believer and Rooting For You are instrumentally flat and nondescript, while Reid seems unable to express herself other than through rhetorical questions.

On Who Am I she ponders: “Who am I to want you now you are leaving?” The trouble is she’s built up no rapport to allow the listener to relate to such introspection. The lack of development in their sound can be explained artistically, but offering the same vague lyrical clichés four years on is unforgivable.

It might seem unfair to the put the boot in to music so patently innocuous. The trio have a good taste for arrangement and the production here is richer and more colourful than on their debut. Reid, who was already technically gifted, has also improved in terms of consistency and range.

But while London Grammar are never dislikable, they won’t quench listeners with a thirst for atmospheric pop that actually goes somewhere. ‘Truth is a Beautiful Thing’ is a frustratingly tepid record that’s easy to listen to and easy to forget about.

London Grammar Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue October 17 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Wed October 18 2017 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Fri October 20 2017 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Sat October 21 2017 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Mon October 23 2017 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Thu October 26 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Fri October 27 2017 - BRISTOL Colston Hall
Sun October 29 2017 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Newcastle City Hall
Mon October 30 2017 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

Click here to compare & buy London Grammar Tickets at Stereoboard.com.



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