The feeling is they have left something vital behind.
Helen Groom 2007
Disappointing is the verdict on this fourth album from south London duo Turin Brakes, at least for anyone who was a fan of their early, contemporary-folk sound. What is left here might have a fuller, more lite-rock sound, but it lacks the gut kicking brilliance of their Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut, The Optimist LP.
Dark On Fire is not without its good points. Olly Knights is in fine voice again, with the rawness that he does best occasionally shining through. But, unfortunately, large parts of the album will sound musically predictable, even to the most ardent fan.
Summing up the problem here is “Stalker”, which as the name suggests, is not about the most pleasant of subjects, but the tone of the music and the delivery of the words mean all trace of menace is absent. Disappointing, in essence.
The exception is title track, “Dark On Fire” which sounds both mournful and hopeful at the same time. They’ve used strings to emphasise, not overshadow, the acoustic sound, and the chorus showcases the band’s hallmark vocal harmonies. It is a sound that doesn’t need much added to it to give it an epic, haunting sound.
But all of that promise and atmosphere is wasted as soon as “Real Life” starts. Do yourself a favour and press the skip button.
While not reaching the heights of “Dark On Fire”, album opener “Last Chance” is upbeat, punchy and pacy, not something you would have managed being written about a Turin Brakes song a few years back, with a fantastic guitar line from Gale Paridjanian. “Bye Pod” (lovely little banjo-sounding refrain) and “Here Comes The Moon” (you really don’t hear enough xylophones these days) also have their strong points, while closer “New Star” leaves you feeling more positive as the album draws to a close.
So while there is more scale, more ambition and a fuller sound to their latest album, you can’t help but feel that they haven’t managed to build on their early promise. In moving forward, the feeling is they have left something vital behind.