30 October 2010

Dan Stafford Reviews:

The Xcerts:

Murray Mcleod – Guitar/Vocals
Jordan Smith – Bass
Tom Heron – Drums

The Xcerts are a promising new indie band from Aberdeen. Since their formation in 2001, they have been making music that they describe as ‘distorted pop’ – a kind of music that blends the fun sound of mainstream indie with the crunch of heavier rock.

Their 2010 album, Scatterbrain, seamlessly plugs of the gap between faceless indie pop and carefree, edgy alt rock. This is perhaps best demonstrated by infectious yet frantic guitarwork of the lead single Slackerpop, and the atmospheric excess of the title track, Scatterbrain. While both songs are typically what you would expect from a band trying to appeal to a wide fanbase, it would be a mistake to say that The Xcerts’ only merit lies in having an ear for a catchy tune – there is enough quality and variation in the songwriting to mean that the disc is good for more than one spin, and the band remains credible enough for the most part to be more than just a guilty pleasure. The credit for this undoubtedly goes to guitarist Murray Mcleod, whose trademark guitarwork makes for the hook filled yet pleasantly heavy listening experience found in songs like Carnival Time or Hurt With Me. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of his playing is the ability to weave soft chords and leads into his rhythm playing to create a satisfyingly full sound, which is often a challenge for bands with no second guitarist. This edge is reinforced by his passionate, accented vocal delivery which owes as much to Brand New as it sounds like Biffy Clyro. Nevertheless, he proves to be a versatile vocalist, making use of screams and effects to add to the band’s heavier moments while retaining the influence of chart indie in his voice. This is best shown in the melancholic Distant Memories which contains several long, soft passages, allowing crooning to take precedence over the distorted screams of other songs.

Unfortunately the vocal style is not is not the only comparison to Brand New that can be made– one major criticism of the album is that many of the songs sound like they could reasonably have been b-sides from the Daisy sessions – highlighting the band’s inability to merge their influences into a unique sound. This is perhaps most obvious in songs like Scatterbrain and He Sinks, He Sleeps - he could easily be mistaken for a Scottish Jessie Lacey in either.

Similarly, the bass playing of Jordan Smith follows this pattern. His use of overdrive at times lends a heavy nod to Brand New’s sound which does nothing to differentiate The Xcerts from their competition. It would good to hear him take the lead, as he does in Gum, which would add an extra dimension to the band’s overall sound. On the contrary, drummer Tom Heron’s contribution is powerful but dancey, reinforcing the band’s indie roots but emphasising a considerable rock influence, and perhaps should gain far more recognition for his work in the band than he does at present.

This album is remarkable in the way it manages to retain both a pop and heavy rock influence without compromising the positive aspects of either sound. As such it is a good album, showcasing an able band with plenty of potential. However this is all. The band has yet to carve themselves a niche (which doesn’t sound like Brand New) which will allow them to become more than just ‘promising youngersters.’

The Xcerts’ Scatterbrain – 3.5/5

Dan Stafford

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