Album review: The Love Family – ‘Tracks’

The Love Family - Tracks
If you want to get an idea of what the latest Love Family album is all about, try listening to a song from their first album.

2011’s Out of Reach features a song called ‘A Foreign Country’, on which there’s a play on a famous quotation from from L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between: “The past is my home/it’s now that’s a foreign country”.

It is this couplet that defines much of The Love Family’s work – and Tracks in particular. It’s an album filled with ideas of looking back, reflecting on the past and looking at the present with unrecognising eyes.

Tracks is bookended by ‘Traces’, Parts One and Two. The first of these sets the scene for much of what is to come:

I see traces – all the reminders
and the buildings – they don’t look the same
I see traces – tiny fragments
a thousand faces – half remembered things.

There’s a feeling of unfamiliarity in the familiar: of loss of something vital. You have to walk “for miles now just to find some space” and survival means having to “keep communicating as fast as you can/these days seem endless”.

If all this seems like a bleak assessment, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The album closer uses a Vangelis inspired rendition of the same tune to create an even more alien environment (“no one looks in your eyes here/in the strangest of times”). Now the chorus contains an even gloomier view of modern life:

I see traces – tiny fragments
And the buildings all look the same
I see traces – tiny fragments
Too many faces – too many names.

Compared to Part One’s rather typical Love Family sound, this second part is driven, appropriately enough, by a more synthetic sound. There’s a smoothness here, no doubt reflecting the shiny modernity of a brave new world. But as the song progresses, it unravels into something dirtier sounding with a distorted guitar crashing around and the synths growing to a malevolent volume. It’s inspired, if gloomy, stuff.

Between these two ‘Traces’, comparisons between past’s home and the present’s foreign country dominate. There are lines like “We’re older now/and everything’s more serious” (‘Summer Girl’), “The time when time meant nothing and everything” (‘When Time Meant Nothing’) and “What happened to that one kid who always had something good to say” (‘Somewhere Waiting’).

Memory, forgetting and the fear of forgetting form an important part of these songs – most notably on ‘Your Blood’ where “it feels like we are pouring petrol on things we’ll only notice when they’re gone”.

And it’s a theme that stretches from the remembrance of romantic times past (‘Summer Girl’), through to the nostalgia of carefree youth (‘A Soundtrack’ and ‘Somewhere Waiting’) and on into a very personal feeling of existential despair (the punky ‘Everything is White’ is filled with panicked lines about how “I feel I’m unravelling”).

But despite the doom and dread of the lyrics, there is a life in the music that lifts things up. The Love Family are masters of the belting blinder of an indie tune. Their heavy, pounding drums, driving guitar riffs, together with Gary Robertson’s assured vocals guarantee that each song will be perfectly formed.

The closing moments of ‘Somewhere Waiting’ (“It’s like 77 in the park…”) are positively anthemic, the kind of thing that should be sung by adoring crowds at massive gigs and festivals. Meanwhile ‘Magic is Real’, possibly the only song devoid of bleakness – bounces round with indie disco vim and vigour.

There are, of course, hints that the band may have listened to The Wedding Present, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Jesus and Mary Chain at least a couple of times, but The Love Family have been in this game long enough to have got their own sound down to a tee.

For all its doom, misery, despondency, despair and gloom (and maybe even because of it), Tracks is a rather wonderful specimen of alt rock. It wouldn’t be a bad idea if more people heard it.

You can get your copy of Tracks from their Big Cartel page or from iTunes.

Find out more about The Love Family and many other Medway bands in Do it Yourself: a History of Music in Medway, published by Cultured Llama.

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