Album Review: The November Five – “If You’re Satisfied, You Are Dead”
The trouble with listening to music once you get to a certain age is that you come to the depressing realisation that a lot of the bands you like are just recycling ideas that someone else has managed to do before. Oh sure, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – most of the best bands around nowadays are at least clever enough to put their own stamp on an established formula to give it a bit of a different twist and at least that’s something.
But genuinely original bands, bands who are trying to properly break away from the crowd and forge their own path (or at least ones who fall into that bracket without being totally unlistenable anyway) are getting harder and harder to find these days. It’s what makes bands like the Eureka Machines, the Urban Voodoo Machine, the Jim Jones Revue, the Great Malarkey and pretty much all of Ginger Wildheart’s bands so special – they’re striking out and mixing influences together that people haven’t really done before and doing it well but these guys are increasingly the exceptions rather than the rule.
But, as luck would have it, it appears we’ve got a new group of trailblazers on the block – London’s The November Five. And you people should be very excited about them. I first encountered these guys via a sampler CD a year or so ago which included “Talking Robert Zimmerman Blues”, their humourous swipe at trad-rock bores (who are “still sore since Dylan went electric”), so picked this one up out of idle curiosity more than anything else.
And I’m glad I dug a bit deeper on this one because this is a staggeringly good first salvo from these upstarts. “If You’re Satisfied, You Are Dead” takes the doomy atmospherics of classic goth (we’re talking the Sisters, the Mission and the Cure here rather than Marilyn Manson or Trent Reznor) and backs it up with an angry punk attitude. And it works so well that you really have to ask why nobody has tried this before (at least not in my recent memory anyway).
Opener “Here We Come” rumbles in on an ominous bassline sounding like a punked up Sisters of Mercy of all things. It definitely stands out from the crowd with a mix of doomy goth vocals and spiky new wave guitars and the panic attack of “Helicopter” (not a million miles from the Gun Club) which follows it keeps up the high standards. “I Demand” meanwhile sounds like a spikier more political version of the Cure. We’re in seldom-charted waters here and in amongst those bands whose only schtick is to offer up a watered down version of ’80s hair metal or ’70s classic rock, it stands out like a sore thumb.
And they keep up these high standards throughout with the slower numbers such as the comedown blues of “Good To Be Alive” and the swooping “Breathe” drawing you in with their hypnotic atmospherics. Meanwhile the angry political fury of “Good Cop Bad Cop” and “Cause I Told You So” attacking corrupt lawmen and corrupt bankers respectively are as pointed and vicious as any bunch of spiky-haired upstarts you care to mention.
Seriously, it’s very rare that an album makes a jaded old bugger like me sit up and pay attention like this. And when you consider that this is a debut album, it’s scary to think that these guys will (hopefully) only get better with experience. Album of the year? Oh trust me, this one will definitely be up there in December. In the meantime, I urge you all to take a wander out of your comfort zone and give this a listen. It’s original, it’s got great tunes and choruses, thought provoking lyrics, good musicianship and most of all, it’s something different. Buy the bugger.