Album review by Bjorn Ephgrave
It’s been a six-year wait since the release of The Reads’ sophomore album Lost at Sea, and although you can never get tired of listening to that particular album, or indeed its predecessor, Stories from the Border: as with any artist that floats your boat, you always want more.
Crossfire, the third album from this folk/indie /alternative rock band (It’s quite difficult to pin down their exact music genre – but, in truth, it’s unnecessary) is a real treat for music lovers of all tastes. Following on from their previous albums, Crossfire finds the band at a more mature phase on their musical journey – both physically and creatively speaking – delivering track after track of well-rounded songs of differing pace and melody, with subtle hints of musical influence.
The keyboards of the opening track, ‘Prettiest Scars’, is reminiscent of U2’s classic ‘New Year’s Day’, added to that the foot-tapping beat of Matt Goddard’s drumming, this song definitely gets the album off to a lively start.
‘Never Spoke Of’ is a sure-fire fan favourite that gets underway with a raw guitar strum and steadily builds into a crescendo of sounds from all members of the band. The rousing chorus sung by the always-on-form lead singer Stuart Bennett, makes this one of the stand-out tracks of the album, and a definite favourite for future live gig set-lists.
Lead single, ‘Top of the Rock’, which had its first play on BBC Radio Wales, has an upbeat tempo that is very New Orderesque, and concludes with the kind of extended electro-rock outro that hardcore fans of The Reads have become accustomed to. Lyrically, it is a homage to New York City, and was written by the bands’ lyricist Clare Stevenson. When asked about the song, Clare says “It represents a turning point. Sometimes you just need something to make you happy – life’s too short.” She’s not wrong.
My personal favourite is ‘Birdcage’. Although undoubtedly one of the more melancholic songs from the album, this track really highlights the song writer’s prowess, ‘Rattling the bars I have outgrown. Perched inside a cage and feeling tired and alone’. Alongside these heartfelt words plays a soothing melody, and when the chorus hits, the song is lifted to a higher plane via resident violinist Clare ‘Fluff’ Smith; who, as with the previous album Lost at Sea, provides a magical flourish that somehow manages to give your goosebumps goosebumps. I dare you not to sing along to this one. Maybe even try the harmonies if no one is about.
In total, Crossfire is a collection of ten new tracks that have once again been brilliantly produced and mastered by long-time collaborators Jim Spencer and Frank Arkwright. There’s something for everyone in each song. Melding folk, rock, pop and indie, and using every instrument from synth to strings to percussion, these songs have weight and intent. Intent to please that is, firstly the band themselves, and in turn, the listeners. The band have recently admitted that this album was a labour of love for them, and perhaps that helps to explain why it has taken them six years to create this album. They have matured, not only in calendar years, but as musicians, wanting to perfect their art. Creating not just for creating’s sake, but for the love of it.
We find ourselves in the Spring of 2020: it should be festival season, but we’re all on lockdown until further notice, aren’t we? I suggest that we all grab a six-pack of Strongbow, throw on some wellies, and create a festival in our own garden. Grab your copy of Crossfire and turn it right up so the whole neighbourhood can hear it.
“What’s going on?” They’ll ask.
“ReadsFest,” we’ll reply.
The Reads music and information can be found at https://thereads.co.uk/