England's the Cooper Temple Clause were an instant success with music fans and undeniably claimed the unofficial title of British Music Magazine's "Darlings of 2002," earning popularity and respect in equal measures throughout the year. On See This Through and Leave, no less than five singles are collated together with equally impressive album tracks to provide one of the most accomplished debut efforts of any British rock band since Mansun or Muse. Creepy opener "Did You Miss Me?" draws you in unsubtly before dispatching you to experience the pulsating "Film-Maker," a trademark song if ever there was one. With its searing guitar and two-part harmonies synonymous with Brit rock, the melody is direct, and like the rest of the album, the lyrics are unnerving in their ambiguity. It's already relentless stuff, but there's little sign of a reprise as it segues into the Primal Scream-inspired "Panzer Attack," where you learn that naming a song after a type of military tank is quite deliberate, not in the heavyweight sense but in its driving incessancy. It would be obvious for the album to maintain this tempo, but on the classy single "Who Needs Enemies?" vocalist Ben Gautrey reminds listeners "A killer-key change is all you'll ever need." That, and some delicately weighted horn fills. There's a healthy electronic input too, especially on the divulging "555-4823," which builds a captivating if slightly wobbly bridge between the singles "Let's Kill Music" and "Been Training Dogs," sampling all things British, including the chimes of Big Ben and a BBC Radio news bulletin. After hammering out the riff-driven "Been Training Dogs" and the equally powerful "The Lake," there's a necessity to ease into the tranquil yet rousing finale, "Murder Song." It's a turbulent journey. As expected, the direct style of the singles alone had some sections of the music media seeking to invent new categories such as the slightly generic "shoutcore" -- although when asked the appropriate vocal questions, Gautrey's voice does reveal distinctive qualities. It would be myopic not to mention that some of these qualities hint that Oasis' Liam Gallagher or the Levellers' Mark Chadwick have taken turns providing guest vocals, but this shouldn't prevent you from being impressed with the singer's intense snarl. Musically too, the band proves a six-piece can hold it together while deploying a variety of styles and influences without altering its ethos. At times, the songs lack intricacy in favor of long-held chords, which if nothing else increase track length, but this isn't tiresome. In truth, it's hard to imagine a more finely balanced record. Their ability to incessantly bring the whole sound down, only to come back at you more fiercely than before, can leave you breathless at times, generating no emotion short of desperation to see the band perform these blistering songs live. Worth it for the singles alone. In fact, worth it for "Film-Maker" and the impressive "Amber" alone, but they're helped by being surrounded by some of the best indie rock songs in years. If you're not bowled over by this album, you will have to steady yourself.
AllMusic Review by Owen Guthrie-Jones
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2