Links to songs in Blue.
Everyone's talking about extinction these days. There’s the Extinction Rebellion, Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kolbert’s book ‘The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History’ and now we have a debut album from East London band Cross Wires called ‘A Life Extinct’, which took some of its inspiration from Kolbert’s book.
Singer Jonathan Chapman says of the albums lyrics and its title:
‘Once I’d written the lyrics to the first 4 or 5 song’s I realised there was a theme of endings/death/extinction running through the songs so I then purposefully tried to tie them together through break up songs. Various previous relationships appear and then reappear across the album. Sometimes it’s more than one person in a song. I was reading a book called The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Colbert at the time I started writing the lyrics so that really influenced the songs.
The band have been compared to the Jam and the Clash. My initial thoughts having heard the first single to be released from the album 'Paradise Club 1953' was that they sounded like a mix of the Fall and Flowered Up (anyone remember them?). This is partly because Jonathan's vocals wear their Greater London roots (imagine Mark E Smith singing with Ian Dury's accent) with pride, but also because the music has a very raw edge to it. To place further context, for the Jam, we’re talking about the ‘In the City/This is the Modern World’ era and first album territory for the Clash. For the Fall, think ‘Slates’ through to ‘Live at the Witch Trials’.
Ian (drums), Jonathan and Pete (guitar) all grew up in Romford, with bassist Pete from East Ham, but the band reside in Bethnal Green now and have released a string of singles and a mini-album ‘Living in a Radio City’ prior to the release of their debut full length album.
The album kicks off with the punky Idles-like ‘Extinction’ before heading into ‘How to Detox a Smokers Lungs’ and ‘Distraction Technique’ which reminds me of a gritty version of early REM. The REM thing also comes through on ‘Transfer Movement’ and ‘Swans’ later in the album and also on ‘A Slow Death’ which reminds me of ‘Belong’. ‘Distraction Technique’ is for me the stand out track on the album.
Next up is ‘Paradise Club 1953’, which nicely brings in some dub elements into the mix in the way that the Clash and Ruts used to do. 'Replicas' follows, which like 'State Funeral' and 'Death of the Human Fly' have a bit of a garage rock feel to it. The album closes with ‘The Collector’, which channels the Buzzcocks at the beginning and but then comes into its own.
Overall there’s a lot to like about the album. There's a fine array of tunes and a decent amount of variation across the album to keep things interesting. It is very raw and at times it feels like it could do with a little more polish, but it shows a lot of promise. The band wear their influences, which also include Gang Of Four, Wire, The Cure, Magazine, and newer Post Punk influenced stuff like Interpol and Protomartyr very much on their sleeves, but lets face it, they’re not exactly bad frames of reference are they?
‘A Life Extinct’ is released on 1st November on Culture War Records. Pre-order the album at crosswires.bandcamp.com/album/a-life-extinct. The band are having an album launch party at Flashback Records at 131 Bethnal Green, London, E2 7DG on the day of release.