May '14

Andrew Lemon appraises the latest releases from Empty Lungs, Tied to Machines and UNKNWN

Empty Lungs – 'From Russia With A Lack Of Love'

Bands with a reputation for being impressive live acts always face the problem of translating that energy into their studio recordings, but Belfast pop-punk-rock band Empty Lungs know that concise and catchy songwriting helps to capture that same urgent feeling.

'From Russia With A Lack Of Love' is a protest song focused on the topical theme of homophobia, but it's the track's beautifully simplistic chord progressions and good old 'Woah-oh-woah' chants that will keep fans engaged until their next live gig.

In truth, much of 'From Russia...' spends its time nodding to late 1990s/early 2000s pop-punk in the vein of Blink 182 and Alkaline Trio (who the quartet opened for last year), with its palm-muted riffery and frenetic drum fills.

And yet, in spite of those well-worn influences, Empty Lungs are a band that know their genre well enough to avoid the pitfalls of pastiche. At a time when the Northern Irish music scene appears to be swaying more and more towards folk and electronic acts, Empty Lungs are a breath of fresh air.

Tied To Machines – 'Tampa Bay Mutiny'

'Tampa Bay Mutiny' is the ferocious curtain call of Belfast-based hardcore punk band Tied To Machines. Showcasing the same kind of blistering riffs and intensity that the quartet began to cultivate on their self-titled 2011 EP, and later perfected on 2012's Carla, 'Tampa Bay Mutiny' is a brief but punishing affair, managing to cram brief snippets of Therapy?, At The Drive In and Minor Threat all into one two-minute track.

Indeed, even the track's midway breakdown hints at an impressive grasp of melody without ever straying into emo territory. Brevity is undoubtedly the key here; anything as unerringly vicious as 'Tampa Bay Mutiny' can threaten to overwhelm after a while, but there's no denying that as a two-minute single, you would have to search far and wide for a better slap in the face.

It only confirms that the Northern Irish scene will have lost one of its decidedly more potent rock bands. If 'Tampa Bay Mutiny' is to be the band's final single – as is apparently the case – then we can rest in the knowledge that Tied To Machines are charging off into the blood-soaked sunset.

UNKNWN – 'BBY'

Originally an anonymous and enigmatic solo producer, Unknown's Chris Hanna has since let slip the veil of mystery and teamed up with Liverpool-based vocalist Gemma Dunleavy to perform and release music as UNKNWN. The first single off their new double A side, 'BBY', is a less shadowy and murky affair than many of Hanna's previous solo works.

Whilst Dunleavy's vocals are crucial in lending the track a more conventional pop feel, it's the shift in beats and percussion that feels more noteworthy, with the atmosphere on 'BBY' closer to that of a rainy afternoon rather than the post-club night bus beats of Hanna's much-referenced influence, Burial.

In truth, Hanna's sound has been moving away from that of Will Bevan's ever since those first mysterious tracks appeared on YouTube, but it's pleasing to see that the duo have added extra layers and dimensions to build on their own distinct sound; sparse guitar lines, which nod to the xx and even local contemporary Ryan Vail, tightly-wound percussion clicks and aqueous electronics all point towards a future that looks bright for UNKNWN.

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