Even with their headline appearance at this year’s Off The Cuff falling through after the festival’s cancellation, it feels like Birmingham’s own &U&I have been everywhere we’ve turned this year. It’s remarkable considering that the band haven’t actually been too busy in 2015 as far as live shows go, but sets at the latest Great Escape and 2000 Trees festivals have certainly stuck out as highlights of another frantic summer. The relative respite since then has been for good reason, and the release of the ‘Merci’ EP should be a welcome payoff. It’s the band’s first release as part of the Robot Needs Home family – alongside the likes of all the talent you could expect on a label founded by Maybeshewill – and it’s hard to imagine that the newfound company doesn’t come with a bit of added pressure. The trio are no strangers to such things however, whether as &U&I or back in their Blakfish days, so even before the first note is heard, it’s hard not to get excited for what the EP has in store.
’The Wooden Box’ saunters into life with the exact same combination of riffs and attitude that had us falling for the trio so quickly in the past. Vocally, it’s one of the band’s best offerings yet; even at twenty past three in the morning it’s hard not to get caught up in the refrain, shouting along with each “I am happier than I have ever been”. The EP’s lead single ‘The Stamp’ surfaced back in April, quite possibly boasting the best music video of the year. Almost echoing the puppetry at work in that very video, they’ve got us hanging on every note from the start, and the post-hardcore frenzy doesn’t let off as we hit the title track. The reign of ‘The Wooden Box’ as Thom Peckett’s best vocal performance to date lasted approximately five minutes before ‘Merci’ reared its head, and it’s hard to imagine anything toppling this one quite so quickly. While ‘The Artist’ does fantastically on an instrumental level of carrying the EP to its conclusion, the title track of ‘Merci’’ is undoubtedly its highlight as well.
&U&I in just four tracks have fired themselves right back into the foreground of the British post-hardcore scene, and it’s clear where they’re more at home. The ex-Blakfish men just aren’t the type to hang around on the periphery, and the determination to enter 2016 on a high is palpable across all of the ‘Merci’ EP. We’re getting to the point in the year now where more and more bands are starting to really hit their rhythm, be it with studio releases, live showings or both. With the release of ‘Merci’ and a return to the stage just around the corner, October is looking like the time where &U&I set the bar.
‘Merci’ EP by &U&I is out now on Robot Needs Home
Words by Antony Lusmore (@VilinskiKonjic)