Tubelord - R O M A N C E
Math Rock, Synth Pop, Indie
Some two years ago when I discovered Tubelord, I was astonished by everything they were doing. A simple three piece band hailing from Kingston upon Thames, England with a sound that could be likened to The Fall of Troy minus the screamed vocals, they were making a bigger sound than many larger acts. Their first full length, Our First American Friends was packed with energy, great melodic sensibilities, and gleefully spastic song structure. Tubelord managed to be a massive oxymoron, a pop band with many of the conventions of progressive rock, and vice versa. When 2010’s Tezcatlipōca EP came around, it had a lot of fans divided. They had added a 4th member, a synth player, and it seemed like the band was going in a very different direction. Soon though, a lot of the fans (me included) warmed up to this new sound. That EP was a good way to get people primed for what their next album was going to sound like. In a move that could be considered unwise, the first two songs they released from R O M A N C E, 4T3 and My First Castle were inaccurate depictions of the album as a whole - the former, a song that could qualify as chiptune, almost devoid of real instrumentation, and with a fairly simple structure, and the latter, a very straightforward synthpop song, albeit with frontman Jo Prendergast’s distinct vocal delivery.
R O M A N C E as a whole has a sound closer to their first album than one would expect, with heavy dissonant parts like the intro/outro of Go Old and the breakdown in Here Is Nothing. Jo’s emotive falsetto is still a centerpiece of the music, delivering soaring cathartic melodies and infectious pop hooks like the ending of the aforementioned Here Is Nothing. Tubelord has retained their complexity, not only in their technical proficiency as seen in Jo’s sliding guitar riffs in Never Washboard, but also in compositional elements such as the quirky vocal harmony intro of Charms, usage of odd meter, and the general progressive elements of almost all of the songs. The band experiments with a lot of new elements on this album, most prominently the synthesizers, which end up providing many of the most memorable and satisfying melodies that you’ll find here. They also incorporate piano for the first time in a couple songs, and even experiment with some Latin rhythms and bongos/congas on In Greenland. With the addition of synths also came the ambient elements of parts like the end of Waterworld and the noisy screeches of Ignatz. Lyrically, Jo has been quoted saying that every line of every song is referential to the works of various female poets. His goal with writing this album was to “put himself in the place of the reader, not the writer” so this is somewhat of a concept album. Their songwriting has matured, which is saying a lot considering how finely crafted every track on Our First American Friends was. They consistently deliver variety and distinctly memorable music packed with energy, and I see myself coming back to this album a lot in the future.
R O M A N C E gets 9 hexagons out of 10.