Real Estate – Atlas
On their new album, Real Estate issue an open invitation to compare them to their mid-80s indie jangle-pop counterparts. The results are in. They’re more melodic than McCarthy. More shiny than The Brilliant Corners. More sturdy than The Field Mice. Much more. Less trotskyite than The Redskins. Not difficult. More canine than Miaow. And on ‘Crime’ when they sing “Toss and turn all night, Don’t know how to make it right, Crippling anxiety”, you’d swear it’s déjà vu all over again. That’s a good balance sheet. But there’s a big difference. Mid-80s indie guitar bands were populated by very serious young men (mainly) making music in a rather ramshackle way. And the ramshackleness of it all was a major part of the attraction. By contrast, Real Estate would probably be great fun to have a drink with, but they take music making seriously. Really seriously. Atlas comprises 10 perfectly performed tracks, none of which is a moment too short or lasts a second too long. And all of which are produced absolutely beautifully. It’s a treasure. Sublime. A musical artefact. A truly good album. And yet, it’s just a little difficult to get lost in. With not a note out of place. With every composition so carefully structured. With so much thought having gone into to generating such a wonderful set of songs, it feels just a tiny bit forced. Only occasionally does it break free. ‘Had To Hear’ starts things off really well. ‘Primitive’ stands out. And ‘Navigator’ brings things to a close very nicely. But it never quite transcends. More than 25 years ago on Foxheads Stalk This Land, The Close Lobsters delivered 10 frantically jejune indie guitar pop tracks. Nine were the same length as the average Real Estate song on Atlas. But on the last song, ‘Mother of God’, they spaced things out and let themselves go. Is Atlas a better album than Foxheads? Absolutely. But would it benefit from a little more ramshackle transcendence at times? Yes, it probably would. And that would make for a truly great album.