How to follow up a subtle pop master class of a debut album? This is the challenge facing Guillemots: gold-selling, Mercury-nominated - their critically acclaimed 2006 release ‘Through The Windowpane’ was always going to be difficult to leave behind.
In this context, opener ‘Kriss Kross’ reads as much as a mission statement: its aggressive, oddly filmscore synth stabs revealing a harder Guillemots than we’re accustomed to; Fyfe Dangerfield tellingly invoking his band to “shake things up a bit tonight”. On the way there’s soulful Electro on ‘Big Dog’, the 80s radio-friendly MOR of ‘Falling Out of Reach’, World on ‘Cockateels’, New Wave meets Glam Rock on ‘Get Over It’, and a suggestion of Nu (groan) Rave on ‘Last Kiss’. Further there’s all manner of Dub, Disco and R&B, and it’s a dizzying mix. Mainly it’s the sounds of the 1980s that prevail here, but that’s not the whole story: from the Human League, through New Order, Mori Kante, The Blow Monkeys, all the way through to Aphex Twin, The Neptunes and, erm, Cliff Richard, Guillemots have cast their net of influence far and wide. This isn’t to say that the new sound is entirely unfocussed; they’ve not metamorphosed into some twisted Electro / Nu-Rave / Folk hybrid overnight - they’ve not turned their back on a winning formula, and essentially we’re still dealing with the same components as before.
At the heart of ‘Red’ is the soulful melancholic pop of their debut record, only now it’s less esoteric, and the edges are more pronounced. The ‘almost anything goes’ ethos is slightly wearing on the first listen, but given the courtesy of repeated attention, ‘Red’ affirms itself as a multi-genre delight, with enough moments of sublimely crafted pop to engage even the most fervent anti-Guillemot. It may not trouble the Mercury’s this year, but it’s doubtful that that was ever the point of this one.