When the first quote you read about a group is Robert Plant calling them a “great band,” the notice is served. The Lines, a four piece indie rock band from Wolverhampton, England went through a few lineup changes from 2007-2009 as they honed their sound and played supporting shows for fellow English band-mates like The Editors, and Little Man Tate. Their debut single, “Domino Effect” reached number ten in the UK charts. With their lineup solidified by 2010 they signed to Independent records and released their debut self titled album late that same year. Raving reviews for their raucous live shows continue to pour in as their up-tempo grooves have more of an “Arctic Monkeys” feel then the traditional comparisons to “The Verve” they have received. The Lines self titled album is full of infectious riffs and soaring heartfelt melodies, let's delve into the tracks.
The opening track, “Tracey” begins with a steady pounding by Dave O'Connor and a rolling guitar riff by Dean Bates. As Alex Ohm ends each verse with “Sweet little lies, sweet little lies,” the drums pound and the riff blasts back into the listener's ear while the continuous groove ripples like a sonic wave vibrating through your stereo.
“Glorious Aftermath”, the bands first single off the album kicks in at a fast pace as the guitars chop their way, leading the listener to the rest of the song. The song changes its pace very few times as the steady jam and light guitar picking during the verses let Alex Ohm's voice ring loud and clear over the other instruments. During the instrumentals both Alex and Dean's lead and rhythm guitars are heard soaring over the steady bass provided by Danny Pease.
“These cheap thrills and these steep hills will climb or let you come down,” Ohm begins over a light clean guitar picking and a slower paced steady beat; fittingly titled “Slow it down,” poignant, after the first two tracks of up-tempo ear catchers. The groove picks up slightly for the breakdown between verse parts. The double kick beat by O'Connor provides a nice change between the smooth overlay of the verses. The lightly picked guitars poke through the stereo as the breakdown with Ohm sing “I’m on fire, you watch the flames burn out... We burn out,” with backing vocals by the rest of the band. The beat then kicks back in for an instrumental crescendo that ends this slightly slower paced track nicely.
“How it should be” begins like something straight out of the Arctic Monkeys catalog. With a pounding rhythm and chainsaw chopping guitars searing their way to the forefront, catching the listener up in its infectious groove. “We used to dance with two left feet, stumble over words every-time we meet” is sung by Ohm as the hook to this short but "dancy" groove track that will leave the listener definitely wishing there was more.
The band seems to lose itself within “Crystal Clear” as the sound has no clear direction or hook to reel the listener in. A bit on the slower side, this plays as what seems to be a filler song, even the band seems to be bored trouncing through this melody, adding hand clapping in the background to go along with the lazy feel. Some of the slower indie fans may point to the songs feel as a positive but this definitely doesn’t play towards the strong points “The Lines” have as a band.
Picking up the pace a little, “The Lines” find themselves in a tempo set between “Crystal Clear” and “How it should be.” More like a cruise control tempo “let it go” starts off steady and breaks off into just bass and drums for part of the verses. About a third of the way through the song the guitars pick up and blast through to the forefront of the song turning the last crescendo into a controlled groove that invites the listener to stomp their foot while Ohm croons, “Let it go, let it go,” allowing the song to fade out at what seems a long two and a half minutes.
“Domino Effect,” which was released as a single long before the band put out this full length album, gained success in the UK chart is none-the-less still holds its weight among the rest of the songs on their debut album. Familiar guitar picking pepper the track, along with the soaring voice and self questioning lyrics of Alex Ohm, which prick at the listener's ears like a soft spoken question for them to answer within themselves. Their confidence is clear as Ohm proclaims their goal to “burn this town like no one else can.” This track gets right to the point while seeming to favor showcasing Ohm's voice and lyrics over the grooves that are conjured up in there other works on this album.
Switching to a folkish acoustic driven sound which then kicks into to a chord progression sounding similar to Coldplay's “yellow,” “Over and Out” is another slow track that could read like a filler song except for the profound sincerity of Ohm's voice. His soft conversational croon grabs the listener from the very first words of “Don't say this is it... This is now.” As the song proceeds, the pace takes a backseat to Ohm's clear ringing and pleading over self reflection and realization. The acoustic guitar adds a nice backdrop to bring the rest of the groove back in over top. Each verse builds as it reaches its zenith point, with the end perfectly set up as justification for all the sounds used throughout. Fast picking solo's sliding up and down while violins and acoustic guitars stir the listener's soul while following the thoughts of Ohm as he searches for a balance between “something” and “nothing.”
“Half Dreams” seems to pick up where “Over and Out” left off. A quick roll leads right into a slower tempo groove that the listener may think this is the second part of the previous song. Though not as poignant as “Over and Out” “Half Dreams” leads a slow path to nowhere in particular. Where the high points soared on the previous track, none of the points are repeated or built upon here. All the makings of a filler song. Again fans of the slower love pop songs and styles may appreciate this attempt by the lines, but by this point in the album it is clear what works and what is an attempt to break off. “Half Dreams” will become a common skipper track for those listening to what “The Lines” really have to offer.
“El Matador” quickly reels the listener back in to the head nodding zombie state that is found on the other up-tempo quick-hitting, guitar riff laden songs on the album. The steady heartbeat pounding by O'Connor paves the way for the jump around groove that follows. Pulsating through the headphones, the groove resonates back and forth as Ohm sings, “I’ve made mistakes, I’ve made mistakes”. Breaking completely into a jam, then steadily sliding back into the cruising pace, allowing Ohm to belt his self comparisons to a certain charging animal. This could easily be most fun song to listen to on the album and for those feeling around the harder rocking grooves, this is your bread and butter song, containing everything a band needs to have a hit with a little edge to it while showcasing all their strong points.
As the Album approaches its close The Lines seem to pick up the pace consistently, charging right from “El Matador” into “Circles,” another quick streaming groove. One thing that is noticeable about the intelligence of sound is the guitar playing of Dean Bate. His awareness of crafting grooves around knowing when to hold back and then bring it makes for a perfected balance of clean and slightly distorted. Bate Falls in line during the verses, letting the bass and drums vibrate out the wave that the rest of the band then rides; but when the need is there to turn up the volume knob, his machine gunning rifts hypnotize the listener driving their foot stomping through songs like “Circles.”
Loudmouth explodes at the listener with heavy bass and drums as Ohm chimes in with “She's in denial, she's in denial, telling her lover it's alright, he runs for cover, he runs for cover, all day long...” with Bates bombarding the track with quick bursting riffs, going back and forth with Ohn's lyrics. Loudmouth is a fitting fast past closer that ends the album justly. O'Connor and Pease each get to showcase their skills throughout the middle of track as the tempo never lets up or slows down. Although some prefer a long drawn out ending song, The Lines stay within their familiar spot of quick hitting, catching the listener by surprise, quickly ending the song as if it was sandwiched in the middle of the whole album.
The Lines definitely have found their groove on this self titled debut album. Their at their best when Ohm's voice is soaring over fast-paced foot stomping rhythm's and slightly distorted buzz-saw guitars. The opening songs of the album and the closing few hit rock nail right on the head. The album's pace slows slightly in its middle section, which might lull or discourage some listeners, but those indie rockers who enjoy the folkish slow style may gravitate towards those songs in particular, but for those who are encouraged by the “Arctic Monkeys” comparison or “The verve” be sure to stay with the album for the closing songs as they best showcase the blazing promise that so many listeners have already bestowed upon this band.
Reviewer Bio - Tim Rosini is part of the editorial team at Onlinerock team. Having a background in English literature with a concentration in creative writing, Tim found himself working for various magazines and websites after moving out to the west coast last summer. Having the ability to adapt his focus from business writing to creative fiction he has found a great place to exercise his passion for music on the onlinerock website.