Years ago a friend of mine went for an interview to join the British Royal Navy. Hepped up with excitement he met the recruiting officer in Belfast, and soldiered his way (if that’s the right term) through the interview. At one point the Sergeant-Major-type interviewing him bellowed ‘where are you from? You’ve an accent from nowhere’. It was presumably the deciding factor for his failure to boldly go where the Mountbatten’s of this world had gone before (although responding ‘drinking’ when asked for his hobbies might also have played a part…). On those criteria Apostle of Hustle fail every recruitment test as well, because while they’re, no doubt, worthy musicians, they quite simply sound like they come from nowhere.
It’s also, possibly, something they’re quite proud of – given the title of the album – National Anthem for Nowhere. They may be proud, but I’m bored – with songs washing over me that could have been written by any number of earnest American rockers (Nada Surf, Jimmy Eat World, or even Death Cab for Cutie).
There’s nothing objectionable about the album, and in fact there are a number of tunes that will probably prick up your ears when it gets blanket radio airplay (as it’s likely to). It’s just that there’s nothing to pin a clear identity to the songs or the singers. They’ve all the angles covered, and end up with a record that is very much less than the sum of its parts.
For example, let’s take Justine – not a bad song, but not a great one either. In the great tradition of safe-playing pedestrian rock of the moment (a la plain white ts, for example), the band have a song dedicated to a girl’s name that’s slightly off-kilter. Safely re-assuring, with a hint of mystery, the record company execs smile – plus there’s a good demographic chance of shifting an extra couple of thousand copies to girls across the world who, reasonably, assume this might be the last time a band stumbles upon their name. How does the song go? You’ve got me there, and it was scarcely two minutes ago that I last listened to it.
This is all a bit harsh, perhaps. The band, after all, sing in Spanish on one song, and have various different time signatures spaced throughout the album. As if that made up for the lack of one brilliant shining idea in at least one song.
Highlights – forced at gunpoint I’d recommend Chances are, which is well executed and shows some spirit, and Cheap like Sebastien. But really, there are so many better records you could spend your time with, regardless of where you’re from.