Six by Seven

The Closer You Get

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The growling, slightly arty power of the English quintet evident on its debut took on a more studio-centric guise for the followup, and while the band later considered it a bit overproduced, The Closer You Get is still an underrated monster of an album. A great line in song titles certainly doesn't hurt -- "England and a Broken Radio," "My Life Is an Accident," and the best of the bunch, "Sawn Off Metallica T-Shirt" -- but if that were all then the reason for listening would be slim. As it is, the cranked up feedback and aiming-for-the-epic arrangements, nicely offset both by Chris Olley's sometimes strangled vocals and the sometimes rushed clatter of the band, finds a fairly solid balance throughout. Sometimes one can sense how Six by Seven could, with less inspiration, have been a more run-of-the-mill U.K. indie band, but there's enough depth, range, and beauty to help them avoid that fate many times over. In ways the album doesn't fully kick in until "Ten Places to Die," with its moody guitar part matched by Olley's high croon and Chris Davis' restless drumming, setting an air of nervous, building anticipation that gets more tightly wound as it goes. After that it's one peak to another, from "New Year" and its dazed waltz-time verses leading into marvelous, soaring but sad choruses to the rampaging chaos of "Slab Square" and "England and a Broken Radio"'s calm, haunted pace. "My Life Is an Accident" also demonstrates the band's mastery at build and release performances to excellent effect. "One Easy Ship Away" is almost the band's equivalent of a power ballad, but definitely on its own terms, squeals and drones of feedback floating through the mix as piano and Olley's hurt vocals step to the fore.

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