It's a record born in the studio, rather than the heart. But however cold and detached...
Richard Banks 2005
The Departure had played only a scattering of gigs in local hostelries before being catapulted onto festival stages in 2004. It was one hell of a steep learning curve, but they certainly impressed. Snapped up by Parlophone a mere six months after forming, they must have felt the pressure when recording this, their first full-length offering, so you can't blame the band for wanting to get it right.
Listening to Dirty Words brings new meaning to the term Robot Rock. And what with Coldplay's impeccably calculated X&Y sounding worthy of something Deep Thought might generate, it seems it's official - the laboratory is the new garage. Messrs. Doherty and Barat, please take note: not knowing how to play your instrument is so last year.
Dirty Words is testament to the power of modern day wizardry. Masterfully produced by Steve Osborne (New Order, Depeche Mode), each and every note here sounds as if it were positioned by microscope before being committed to tape. No leather and denim here, only lab coats and disposable gloves. What results is a somewhat sterile album with an impenetrable, icy sheen.
This may, of course, be entirely The Departure's intention. If nothing else, such an approach underscores the bands 80s influences. The nervous claustrophobia of "Changing Pilots" evokes the atmosphere of The Cure's Faith or Pornography, and David Jones' near-monotone vocals consistently recall Ian Curtis' downcast drawl.
And yet, with guitarists Sam Harvey and Lee Irons swapping shrill hooks, and Ben Winton's hefty basslines pushed right to the fore, it all adds up to a pretty danceable mix. Debut single "All Mapped Out" is a particular gem; built on a foundation of stuttering, interlocking guitar riffs, it definitely deserves its recent re-release. Also included are singles two and three ("Be My Enemy" and "Lump In My Throat"), further proof of the band's surprisingly mature songwriting.
It's a record born in the studio, rather than the heart. But however cold and detached it may sound, Dirty Words is a fine, flawlessly recorded debut.