The first time I encountered Oxford’s A Silent Film I was in the middle of nowhere, hungover as fuck and wishing I’d brought some wellies to the rain drenched 2000 Trees festival. Back then, with a swimmy head and a leathery tongue, they were just the right kind of band to grace the stage with their simple and melodic tunes that took more than a fair share of hints from the likes of Coldplay and Keane, whilst holding it all together with an integrity saving dollop of Radiohead inspiration.
A Silent Film show off their range immediately with a watery glockenspiel intro on ‘Sleeping Pills’ that shimmers out of the speakers like blinking UFO’s, before transforming into a strong guitar melody that is a perfect marriage with Robert Stevenson’s soft yet strong vocals. Stevenson’s voice remains a massive morale booster throughout the whole album, although it would seem the band have a fondness for vocal effects that should be avoided in the future.
It’s just as well Keane have apparently made an effort to remodel their sound, because when you’re thrown into ‘Julie June’ it’s far too easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s the same band, what with the piano chords being banged out underneath airy fairy drawn out vocal notes. This issue of similarity repeats throughout the album, with many tracks sounding a little bit too similar to the music that has influenced the band.
It’s an album of very few changes, but the inspirations these young lads have taken are extremely explicit, mainly thanks to the fine balance of instruments in the recording process. There are moments when the melancholic trickles of Stevenson’s voice on ‘Gerontion’ echo the Kid A/Amnesiac era of fellow Oxfordians (Oxfordiettes? Oxfordes?) Radiohead, and ‘You Will Leave a Mark’ is a hit single in the making with it’s banging drums and piano led breakdown that recalls Coldplay’s more cheerier numbers.
It’s a shame to say that the final tracks of the album leave a horrible taste in the mouth, with the frustrating and pompous decision to add minutes of silence at the end of the languid twiddling of thumbs that is ‘Ghosts in the Water’ only to lead into a pointless and rather painful conclusion on final track ‘Aurora’ which closes with three minutes of CD jumping.
So, whilst my circumstances have changed (fortunately my house isn’t a field, at the moment we can just about afford heating so it isn’t cold either, and that roof is doing a splendid job of keeping the incessant rain out) it would seem that A Silent Film’s effect on me hasn’t. The City That Sleeps is a flutter of an album, soaring upon whims that are sweet like candy, that trouble the head as much as candyfloss troubles the chewing process, a fly through beautiful green valleys that dip and rise in gentle slopes. It’s only problem? It’s a clone of all that has come before it, and whilst talented, the band now need to prove that they can bring something new to the bloated table of popular indie rock.
This review is also published over at Sonic Dice.