Formed out of the ashes of zany rockers The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, London indie-rock quartet Piano Wire broaden their musical horizons on their debut ‘Dream Underground’. While the same basic blueprint is there: simple, punk-influenced rock music, Piano Wire tone down the sillier elements of Eighties B-Line and take a more mature approach to songwriting.
The three tracks that open ‘Dream Underground’; ‘Get A Life’, ‘Cherry Coma’ and Outline of a Massacre, are simple and stomping, but also include some good use of falsetto vocals and psychedelic-influenced guitar work, while straight up punky tracks like ‘Hooligans in the U.S.A.’ make liberal use of melody. Because of touches like this, it always feels like there’s plenty going on at any given time.
Tracks like ‘Glass Elevator Music’ and ‘Weird Heroes’ incorporate more acoustic guitars and soft-rock elements. ‘Glass Elevator Music’ in particular masterfully combines jangle pop acoustic guitars with harsher, more distorted guitars – which, combined with a great hook, makes it an album highlight.
While not quite a ballad, ‘Weird Heroes’ stands out on an album that can be samey at times because of its slow pace. It peaks at its bridge, which combines beautiful, heartfelt singing with a simple but effective guitar riff.
The band’s sound begins to stagnate a bit around the halfway mark of ‘Dream Underground’ as the listener starts knowing what to expect – stomping, mid-paced rock songs with some melodic and jangly elements. There are still interesting ideas present – like the vocal chants on ‘Red Electric Flower’ – but for the most part things start to sound awfully similar.
It picks up again with the closing track, ‘Gangs’, which slows things down again and has a powerful chorus that feels earned despite following some lacklustre tracks.
Overall, ‘Dream Underground’ is an imperfect debut, but is still worth a listen for its stand-out moments, as well as its reckless and daring approach to combining different musical elements.
‘Dream Underground’ by Piano Wire is released on 17th February on Hanging Houses.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)