Funded by fans, and created over two years, the Losers’ second album, ‘…and so we shall never part’, is an example of everything coming together in perfect symmetry in an age where record companies and expensive promotional campaigns matter so much less than the passion of the musicians and the relationship they now have the ability to share with the fans. Whilst the first album (‘beautiful losers’) garnered a range of critical praise and showcased a group of musicians comfortable with operating within the electronic realm, here we find a band expanding their sonic palette and engaging in wild-eyed flights of musical fantasy, gleefully mashing together elements of UNKLE, NIN, Oceansize and the Cooper Temple Clause with a joy that leaps from the speakers.
The album opens with a genuine, earth-shattering bomb. ‘Azan’, formerly a six minute dance/industrial hybrid on the band’s debut, emerges out of a hazy intro to explode into progressive-tinged might, all raging guitars and gut-wrenching percussion. The sort of track that lodges itself into your brain and refuses to leave for days on end, the melody is hellishly addictive, the lyrics simple and effective and the musicianship beyond question, all of which makes for one hell of an introduction to the album and to the Losers’ modus operandi. The second track is no less of a revelation. Used as the opening song on the recent Losers/Gary Numan tour, ‘Acrobatica’ is a furious and endlessly replayable blast of day-glow guitars, fiery attitude and memorable melodies. It’s the song that had SonicAbuse hooked from the first moment we heard it and one that still captures the imagination with each and every listen. The first major change in direction takes place on ‘oblivion’, a more electronically-biased track that recalls f*** buttons and mixes it with the reverb-drenched guitars of U2, highlighting just how good bands can be when they truly absorb the best teachings of electronica only to spit them back out with rock star attitude and huge, flaming guitars thrown into the mix. The sound is sublime – huge, majestic and hypnotic and the emotions conjured let you know there’s a real beating heart in the midst of the heavily synthesised soundscapes. Darker still is the Massive attack meets ‘year zero’-era NIN of ‘DNA’ with its lazy beat and muttered verse giving way to the rich swathes of guitar that clothe the brain-melting chorus. The only other close reference point may well be Mogwai’s art-house-orientated remix album (‘kicking a dead pig’), the track taking in shimmering guitars and huge swollen beats, once again showcasing a band happy to be straddling the two, often disparate, camps of rock ‘n’ roll and dance.
Moving slowly into Radiohead territory, the album calms down a touch after the foundation-threatening beats of ‘DNA’ and offers up the skittering, slithery ‘half beat house’, a track that initially meanders, only to be snapped back to the beat by the introduction of real percussion and multiple layers of guitar, the Losers kicking up more of a rock squall than the world has seen from Radiohead since ‘the bends’. Staying ahead of the curve and keeping the imagination flowing, ‘Think you’ shuffles on a skeletal beat and throws the ukulele into the mix before suddenly exploding into a thousand points of light as the guitars kick back in. Its slow pace, kept lock-tight despite the guitars straining at the leash, speaks of grey mornings coming down from the night before and the dust streaked windows of the inner city, and while the chorus might look to the future, the song is still very much rooted in a more uncomfortable present. Alongside ‘Azan’ and ‘the chain’, ‘turn around’ is an album highlight. Bruised, battered and hopeless, it’s a beautiful lament that is rent in twain by a monumental burse of dub-step-infused feedback and digital noise that screams from the speakers like a wounded heart. Few bands would be brave enough to take so beautiful; a melody and shatter the mood so utterly, but the risk pays off and the song, in its instrumental rage, says more than any number of over-worked, string-laden crescendos could.
In complete contrast to ‘turn around’, the echoing intro to ‘don’t waste your life away’ inspires action over apathy, and if you were to hear the track in isolation you’d be forgiven for thinking it belonged to an act in the vein of Toro Y Moi thanks to the digitally manipulated vocals and throbbing, eighties-infused beat. Despite operating on a different plane to the other tracks on the album, the song is skilfully textured with guitars, allowing it to sit comfortably within the context of the album despite its markedly different feel and it gives even greater weight to the syncopated beats and sour guitars of ‘Us VS night’, a track that updates ‘bitches brew’ via ‘the fragile’ with its awkwardly snatched vocals and astonishing percussion. Heavy as hell, the track offers a furious chorus and an instrumental bridge that threatens to tear clean through the roof. Another monumental highlight of the live set, ‘the chain’ sounds even more darkly mesmerising on record than it does on stage. Like staring into the eyes of a cobra that sways in front of you, the track carries an element of danger as the bass riffs on the theme to Knight Rider and the vocals work their way deep into your consciousness. It is a brilliant piece of music and one that deserves to be seen in performance thanks to the band’s unique presentation. The title track closes the album and its sense of detached menace in the face of a broken relationship, the pain of which is exacerbated by the friendship circles that inevitably suffer in consequence, is represented by a wheezing percussive element that recalls the drawn out sigh of a failing life support machine. The track slowly trawls through the depths of despair to emerge, via successive layers of guitar, blinking in the harsh light of day with the lyric “and so we shall never part” echoing in the morning air, although an element of uncertainty as to how menacing such a notion actually is remains.
The Losers are a band who will appeal to a wide range of people thanks to their irreverent genre mashing and innovative approach to making music. There is enough metallic urgency here to satisfy fans of acts such as NIN, Sunna, Stabbing westward and Gary Numan and enough melody and emotional resonance to similarly appeal to fans of the much lamented Cooper Temple Clause. Adventurous dance fans, too, will find plenty to admire in the band’s skilful manipulation of electronic elements and the album, as a whole, flows so beautifully that it stands as a master class in careful sequencing and development. The disc has been on rotation more or less constantly for some seven days now and in each case there is something new to hear and, thanks to the variety on offer, a different track to consider a favourite depending on the listener’s mood. Produced to perfection by the band themselves (with help from KLLKLL) and housed in a digi pack which shows off the fine, Storm Corrosion-esque artwork of Panik, this is an album that has much to offer. One of those rare acts that inspire genuine devotion, the Losers have crafted a stunning album that deserves, no, demands attention.