Stricken City Songs About People I Know Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

The newcomers display a palpable sense of belief and passion.

Rob Webb 2009

As perky pop debuts in 2009 go, London's Stricken City make an impressive bow here with maiden (mini) album Songs About People I Know. Led by distinctively-voiced singer Rebekah Raa, the four-piece channel a wide palette of influences into an energetic art-rock that – crucially – still manages to sound all of its makers' own creation.

Icelandic chanteuse Björk's idiosyncratic vocal delivery and Blondie's knack with a new-wave pop chorus are certainly the principal, and oft-invoked, touchstones underpinning the more straightforward radio-friendly moments here. But at their more understated and introspective Stricken City channel the delicate strains of Young Marble Giants, much like fellow London dwellers The xx, offering two contrasting, and equally rewarding, sides to their work.

This latter mood is particularly apparent on choppy single cut and album highlight Killing Time, which – in contrast to the majority of their oeuvre – throbs with nervous tension rather than ecstatic release. Elsewhere, similarities with cult Glaswegian indie-rockers Life Without Buildings, particularly their singer Sue Tompkins' manic vocal tics, are apparent; PS's unhinged energy, buoyed by Kit Godfrey's propulsive post-punk drums, which are exemplary throughout, being a good case in point.

What makes Stricken City stand out from the bunch of new UK indie bands currently attempting something along similar lines, though, is a palpable sense of belief and passion about their music married with a willingness to experiment beyond the sometimes narrow confines of the genre. The plaintive Sometimes I Love You, for instance, is built around a decidedly French-sounding accordion motif, while a capella album opener Gifted was recorded by Raa during a bus journey, and is presented here as-is.

Moments like these and their order in the sequencing (which incidentally works to a tee) leave some valuable breathing space for the listener on what could otherwise have been a busy listen; such variety only serves to heighten the impact of the big guitar-and-synth pop moments like Small Things and 5 Metres Apart, and leaves Songs About People I Know a thoroughly engaging listen from start to finish.

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