Saturday, 9 June 2012

Citizens! - Here We Are

Exclamation marks in band monikers have a troubled history. As an expression of zaniness, they’re the punctuation equivalent of a small child covered in paint shrieking ‘look at me’, guaranteed to make a true music fan run a mile. Just think of Wham!, Panic! at the Disco or 3OH!3, a succession of flamboyant pop posers better known for daft outfits than tunes. As a result Citizens! are going to have to earn their ecphoneme.

Fortunately ‘Here We Are’, recorded with Alex Kapranos, ought to give Citizens! the same boost that the Franz Ferdinand singer gave to The Cribs’ ‘Mens Needs, Womens Needs, Whatever’. The tunes are frequently storming, life-affirming and significantly for a young band in the internet era of hit singles and filler, startlingly consistent.

‘True Romance’ opens on needling piano chords and hits a sweeping chorus like Coldplay if they headed out onto the dancefloor rather than sipping their fruit juice at the bar. ‘Let’s Go All The Way’ takes the downbeat synth and explosive guitars of The Killers at their finest and Jarvis Cocker’s raised eyebrow, hand-on-hip demeanour and twists them into a stark and artful shape. ‘I’m in Love With Your Girlfriend’ is even catchier, an acerbic punk-funk torn between baiting an unsuspecting rival and lamenting 'why do I always want the things that I can’t have?’

As well as a knack with a bouncing tune, Citizens! can also nail a great line. When the singer croons ‘no-one lets a girl like you get bored’ on ‘Caroline’ it’s a suave and witty pick-up line that their producer would be proud of. Meanwhile, the lusty vocal inflections on ‘Love You More’ tread a fine line between casanova and creeper and give a nocturnal seediness to the chorus refrain ‘You’re paying money and you take off your shirt’ that contrasts nicely with the song title. They may look like nice boys but there’s a welcome darkness just beneath the surface.

Like Franz Ferdinand or Suede before them they’re unafraid to embrace pop, albeit closer to Roxy Music and Bowie in 1974 than Rihanna and Katy Perry in 2012 but on ‘Here We Are’ they’ve dragged them into some new shapes. Having crafted an exceptional record that adds up to plenty more than the sum of their influences maybe Citizens! are worthy of their exclamation mark after all.


Max Sefton

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