The Bats

The Guilty Office

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After a couple years with no follow-up album, the Bats returned to action in 2005 with At the National Grid, which seemed like it might be a one-off occurrence, and that they might choose go back into the hibernation they had been ensconced in for ten years. Thankfully for fans of their jangling, melancholy sound, the band re-grouped and returned with The Guilty Office in the early summer of 2009. Though they have a new label (Hidden Agenda), the band's seventh album sounds as if it could have been released anytime in the past 25 years the band has been making brilliant music. Sure, the sound is cleaner than on their earliest records, but the fundamentals are all still there. The propulsive drums, twangling basslines, crisply strummed rhythm guitar, and the plangent lead guitar form the backdrop for Robert Scott's autumnal songs that he and Kaye Woodward sing in sweetly fragile and human terms. It's an instantly recognizable, sound and while cynics could claim that the band has just been repeating itself all these years, it's more apt to say that they know exactly what works for them, and they don't deviate from it much because they know it would be a mistake. Plus, these simple and familiar-sounding songs manage to wring a lot of emotion out of not a lot of effort and trickery, just using deeply felt chords and lyrics to make a big impact. A song like "Broken Path" can reduce the listener to tears with just a couple chiming guitar notes placed here and there, and a soaring vocal harmony in the chorus. It's a trick the band has perfected over time, and Guilty Office is full of these kind of quiet and powerful moments. It's also loaded with songs that compare favorably to their best work; the short but super sweet "Like Water in Your Hands," "Later on That Night," "The Orchard" (which features some very lovely strings and possibly the nicest melody on the album) and "Countersign" are a few examples but really the whole record is made up of songs that have hooks, but also songs that burrow into your consciousness and settle in for a long, warm visit. It may be too much to ask, but the Bats could keep making records like this every couple years for another 25 years, but really there's no reason they shouldn't. Their sound will never grow tiresome; it only gets better with repeated use.

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