Vinyl Vlog 238

Vinyl Vlog 238

Saturday, 22 July 2017

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the 2LP Beggars Arkive Edition reissue of The Closer You Get by Six. By Seven.

By the time the ‘century’ portion of the calandar rolled over seventeen years ago, rock was already beginning to mutate in some pretty interesting ways. By then, the “rap-rock” fan had already come and helped to administer a hefty injection of fresh, crotch-grabbing energy to the form, goth was bigger and more mainstream than it had ever been before thanks to Marilyn Manson, the punk renaissance which had begun in 1994 had made all day, very day a good time to have a bad attitude and interest in Brit-Pop had bred a whole new feast of ear worms. It was actually kind of incredible how much new music had erupted and “taken the world by storm” in just five years’ time.

By the time Six, By Seven appeared on the public radar after all the new aforementioned inroads into both pop and rock had been made, things were beginning to get a little weird from a “creativity” standpoint. By the time Six. By Seven released their sophomore album, The Closer You Get, rap-rock had already had the chance to put down some roots, as had several different hybrids of metal, hardcore and Brit-Pop, but Six. By Seven had a stable mixture of all three of those elements locked down tightly, but the magic hook which pushed the band over the top and into brave new territories was the jagged, splintered amalgam of alternative dance floor beats and bass as well as the platinum-coated kind of Brit-Pop melodies which have made radio stars all throughout the twentieth century. In print, the number of possibilities that combination of elements opened up at the time might seem unlikely, but there’s no arguing that they both came together as well as continuing to hold up now as one listens to this reissue.

Even now, listeners will find they’re flat-out shocked to attention as “Eat Junk, Become Junk” bombs in to open the record and just bowls listeners over with the sound’s near-tectonic assault. Here, while singer/guitarist Chris Olley yowls out a sort of lifestyle-centred vocal focussed on dietary responsibility (stuff like this was popular on dance floors at the turn of the century – ask Moby, The Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim), bass explosions go off on cue to pull listeners in the direction of the nearest dance floor and guitarist Sam Hempton sets up a squalid vortex with the help of drummer Chris Davis which will suck everyone within earshot under their spell. The effect is perfectly mesmerizing – similar, in a way, to how The Prodigy used to hook listeners, but better and far less dated because the song is less pop-based and more focused on songwriting – and can still hold listeners angrily as it pushes their adrenaline levels skyward.

At no point does the band let the adrenaline they set so early in this running really dip as the album progresses. Rather, they refine their approach track-by-track along the way in order to keep listeners engaged instead. Immediately after “Eat Junk, Become Junk” gets the album moving, “Sawn Off Metallica T-shirt” continues to follow the aggressive thread while also adding elements of unabashed Brit-Pop with lyrics like “I got a really bad fucking haircut and a backseat for a bed” as well as some “down home” squalor (the harmonica which appears out of nowhere for a few barres will make listeners do a double take) before simply closing down so fast and cleanly that it can make a listener’s head spin and then leaving the doors open for military march drums (find “Ten Places To Die”) and melodically-infused hard feelings (“One Ship Away” trades dark, caustic sonics for melody and dark lyrics instead) to run out the side, and then further refining their approach to similar fare on the B-side just to prove that they’re capable of pushing ideas more than once. Overall, while some critics could (and did) complain about the multitude of sounds that Six. By Seven chose to mash together, the band actually helped to spearhead many new forms of electronic aggressive rock in the first decade of the new millennium. That wasn’t readily apparent at the time but, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty obvious and some of those who once numbered among the band’s worst critics may find an entirely new appreciation for them as this reissue plays.

Listeners may find new appreciation for Six. By Seven thanks to this reissue of The Closer You Get, but it will likely not be due to any fancy remixing/remastering job because none of that kind of work has been applied here. The only “re-” anything which has been done to inspire the band’s longtime fans to buy a new copy of The Closer You Get is that it has been repackaged with a second LP featuring tracks from the band’s third Peel Session on one side and some odds and sods (B-sides and cuts from a different Peel session) on the other. Trying to explain the content doesn’t really sell it particularly well and, really, about two-thirds of the material qualify as “for diehard fans only” – but some fans would happily hail that as enough to make them lay their money down. To be fair on this critic’s end too, the takes of “Sawn Off Metallica T-shirt” “Another Love Song” and “Sleep” qualify as better than a passing curiosity too; that is not to say there aren’t a couple of godawful snoozes on this second disc, just that it isn’t a complete write-off by any stretch of the imagination.

I know what you’re thinking, reader. You’re likely thinking, “So, with none of the typical creature selling points with which to promote a reissue – with it simply being a re-press of the album with a token offering of a few B-sides and live cuts – why is The Closer You Get being reissued now in the manner it is?” Yes, given the typical practices in the music industry, this reissue is an oddity; its release does not fall in a “landmark year” like a tenth, twentieth or twenty-fifth anniversary (it happens to fall on the album’s seventeenth anniversary) it has not been rethought and its sound has not been altered. It might not seem so at first, but this reissue exists simply to get it back on the market; after seventeen years, it’s likely that vinyl copies of The Closer You Get have long since gone out of print. That simple problem is what this reissue seeks to solve; it intends on getting back on racks for people to discover and appreciate – no more, no less. It’s just that simple. Will it find an audience? It definitely could – all it needs is a group of people willing to discover it. [Bill Adams]


The Beggars Arkive 2LP Edition of The Closer You Get is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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