The year is 2005 and breakthrough bands are heading in one of two well-defined directions. The new romantic wave has been plundered to varying degrees of success by the likes of Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party. The other strain is producing polished tunes with giant choruses that ensure mass appeal, this path while aesthetically more pleasing has a shorter shelf life (Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Travis, Keane). Cornwall’s Thirteen Senses fall neatly into the latter category and their debut The Invitation is perfectly tilted to a market that prefers to gets its kicks with the minimum of hot fuss.
If you were looking for a tune to define Thirteen Senses sound ‘Thru The Glass’ would probably be it. Tumbling waves of guitars meet Will South’s slender but appealing vocals. As the enticing prelude unravels, a chorus as sweet as anything to escape Wonka’s gaff hoves into view. Guitars shimmer so perfectly you be forgiven for thinking that Nasa had suddenly turned their powerful computers into pop making machines. ‘Into The Fire’ is equally pretty, if at the same time somewhat vacant. Joyful carpets of sound, pressed neatly around a naive choirboy lyric delivery. ‘Angels & Spies’ introduces a degree of melancholy, the momentum slows and the lights dim. ‘Last Forever’ is the standout track, the drumming is all rat-a-tat-tat and is augmented by some effervescent guitars, a chopping bass and a chorus that uses no words of worth. Wonderful. ‘Lead Us’ is big, bold, piano led and showcases another chorus to ambush your heart. There are even a few glimpses of the bands undoubted admiration for Radiohead.
At this stage it may seem like an unforeseen outbreak of nitpicking to criticise ‘The Invitation’ because Thirteen Senses are undoubtedly masters of their art. Where they fall down, however, is the totally rigidity to which they abide by the template as laid down by Comecheatus Martinez. Take ‘Gone’ for example, where a delicate strum and no-brain assault into falsetto seems to be a reason for several wasted minutes. ‘Automatic’ is equally redundant, the perfect standard to an episode of the OC where the once perfect teen relationship snaps under the duress of some nasty split ends. Sadly ‘Saving’ appears no better; but as you shake your MP3 player in frustration suddenly the guitars jangle about in a brave display of defiance. On their own these songs could have your ripping the dresser apart looking for a gas lighter to wave in the air but taken as a whole you could be doing the same thing as a precursor to self immolation.
As you will have gathered ‘The Invitation’ has a smattering of great songs and will doubtless sell by the bucket load. It’s just by the fourth song you may feel as if you are about to break out in a sugar rash such is assembly line of perfectly formed pop wannabies. The trick is to limit the dose to one or two a day and with that Thirteen Senses are likely to leave you in a state of wide-eyed wonderment. This is angular pop at its finest, it’s just a pity that the angle hasn’t been adjusted a few degrees to provide some levity. When Thirteen Senses learn how to lead us into temptation rather than down the yellow (brick) road they could become a truly exciting prospect. KD
Thirteen Senses – Thru The Glass