Having arrived at the tail-end of the mid-2000s explosion of ramshackle indie bands, West Yorkshire five-piece the Pigeon Detectives now face the arduous task of trying to regain their place in a music scene which has all but abandoned their contemporaries. Indeed, in the three years since their last record, Emergency, Razorlight, the Kooks, and Kaiser Chiefs appear to have gone AWOL, the Fratellis and Dirty Pretty Things have split up, and the recent record from the View was met with a shrug of indifference. The Detectives' third album, Up, Guards and at ‘Em, therefore, will have to be something pretty special then if they're to survive the mass indie landfill culling brought on by the dominance of urban synth pop. The flashes of '80s electro which kick-start the opening track "She Wants Me" suggest that the band have opted for the "if you can't beat them, join them" approach, but it's a short-lived musical reinvention as it soon gives way to the band's well-worn formula of chugging basslines, lad-rock rhythms, and Matt Bowman's shouty vocals. It's a sound the band sticks closely to throughout its ten tracks, particularly on the likes of "Need to Know This," whose stodgy Brit-pop solos suggest that guitar music hasn't moved on since the '90s; the leery, rabble-rousing post-punk of "Go at It Completely," and the pogo-inducing garage rock of the Strokes-lite "Done in Secret." The complete lack of invention is a surprise considering Justin Gerrish (Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) is at the helm, with only the Shed Seven-esque midtempo "Turn Out the Lights" and the psychedelic closing number "I Don't Know You," a hazy fusion of distorted vocals, meandering acid rock riffs, and even snatches of fairground music offering any respite from the one-dimensional indie-disco vibes. Described as a rallying call to guitar bands by Bowman, Up, Guards and at ‘Em isn't distinctive or original enough to inspire anyone to swap their synths for a six-string, and instead, sounds more like a final nail in the British indie coffin than the shot in the arm it needed.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien