Above the Underground
Review by Kent Manthie
So – this is Above the Underground, come up from the bunker down below. Hailing from Chester, England, this quartet is a mirror image of their alt-pop brethren from the states. They’ve got a little bit of emo, a little power-pop, a bit “grrr angst” in there as well. If you’re into the Jimmy Eat World, Decemberists, the various Blink 182 projects, Braid, you’ll, no doubt, dig AtU.
Made up of four lads, Will Kirkman on vocals, Nick Barlow on bass, Brandon Icely on drums and Al Kirkman on guitar, they have this quite enthusiastic vibe that one can imagine jumping around onstage and running around, kissing the babes in the audience, etc.
They’ve just come out with their debut LP, Sonder. A collection of whys and wherefores. They sure have been a busy bunch of dudes, what with all that touring. It’s enough to turn a once-naive, young lad into a jaded, craggy, maniac, living out of suitcases and posh hotels for months on end! Luckily, though, Above the Underground has not succumbed to that unfortunate state (yet??) If you go to one of the usual spots on the internet, say, www.bandcamp.com or www.lastfm.com, etc. and you check out some tunes from Sonder and come away with a penchant for more, don’t despair – they anticipated you before this happened: this may be, as I wrote, their “debut”, but as I next wrote, it’s their first FULL-length CD (that’s what ‘LP’ means – or did, back in the days of vinyl, just after the Jurassic period – stands for “Long-Playing”, as opposed to ‘EP’, which means “Extended Play”). They started recording by doing an EP they called Autumns about 18 months or so ago. So, they have some material to kick back on and, when you check ’em out at a live show, you’ll be able to hear more original jamming than, say, added cover tunes to lengthen they’re gigs. But, even as they are masochists for touring (see below), they will, no doubt, be back with another recording in a short while.
Good, old fashioned teenaged rock & roll for the kids. As for the above mentioned heavy touring, AtU have been quite rampant: they’ve, so far, played well over 200 gigs in three years’ time and that even includes tours in the UK! The most recent tour was a 60 concert, two month tour of the States.
Not only have they been playing their own shows, they’ve also been out on the road with some other “heavyweights” such as Set Your Goals, A Loss for Words, Save Your Breath and I Call Fives; bands that I have never heard of, but I take the bio’s word for it that they’re “heavyweights” (which, I hope refers to their status/quality and not their collective poundage).
In the UK, they’ve gotten some press coverage in the venerable music mag, Kerrang! as well as Rocksound. Here in the US, they’ve gotten a bit of ink as well, in Alternative Press.
One song that stands out a bit from the rest of the power pop on Sonder is “Shine”, where they slow things down and go semi-acoustic, with plaintive vocals, as if the guy is pleading with his girlfriend to come back or to not leave or to at least listen to him when he’s talking to her. “Bring Me the Sun” is a riled up rocker that starts out with a hard and fast blast, then the double-bass drumming kicks in and we’re off for a wild ride. A couple other songs worth checking out would be “Weathered” “Cheer Up” and “Lavender Town Syndrome”.
Not the most original of bands, Above the Underground does have an apt name, at least it’s not false advertising! Wandering the streets of Chester, handing out showbills for their upcoming gigs in the local clubs got them to where they are now. Now, they just pray that those finicky kids don’t go and have a change of heart and start listening to retro stuff like Nine Inch Nails or Tricky. Check ’em out, give the guys a little of your time and see if they make you jump up and down, they way Superchunk (no musical relation) did when I saw them, way back in the 90s. -KM.