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24 September 2014

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Somerset Sounds - Reviews

The Llamas
The Llamas on stage in Watchet

Review: Ancillary Control by The Llamas

Ellie Richold
BBC Somerset reviewer Ellie Richold checks out Ancillary Control by The Llamas - a six-piece band from all around Somerset. You can let us know what YOU think of the album by using the form below.

The Llamas play a mix of punk, ska and reggae - the perfect music for anyone who likes to have a dance with their drink.

Ancillary Control is an optimistic first album, teaming with sing-along tunes. As I listened to the first track, Who Ray?, I could immediately see the attraction of going to a Llamas gig. However, taking this music into the studio might have been a mistake.

What the songs possess in energy, they tend to lack in complexity. Most of them are based on over-used chord progressions with no-frills punk drumming, basic horn riffs and nonsensical lyrics.

There's nothing wrong with that, except that with an album comes scrutiny, as its very nature is that it is played again and again.

Extra layers and accessible tracks

When I buy music, I like it to surprise me with something I have never noticed, even after months or years - perhaps some syncopation that builds the tension, or a snippet of camouflaged harmony.

With Ancillary Control, I didn't feel like much thought had gone into developing extra layers.

The second reason this CD doesn't quite work is the sound quality.

The album is very badly mixed, which means it failed to do justice to some of the more adventurous bits - like the drumming on the first track, the singing in Hush, or the Weezer-esque harmonies of Humidity.

In fairness, it's not all bad - more time was obviously spent on the production of Island in Your Arms and this makes it a much more accessible track, easily the best on the album. Also, something I hadn't originally noticed did surprise me after the first listening...

Sing-along drinking songs

It's as if there are four different singers on the album. Perhaps there really are.

I named them 'angry alcoholic northerner' (Pub Brawl), 'American from soft rock group' (Island and Space), 'scrumpy-soaked Somerset folk-lover' (End Up), and 'pie-eyed Cockney in kebab shop' (You to Me).

The multiple personalities got me thinking - maybe The Llamas were writing songs as if from the point of view of characters that they wanted to comment on.

Perhaps songs like Pub Brawl and You to Me were not inane and repetitive due to lack of thought, but intentionally like that to evoke the repetitive and inane nature of Britain's binge-drinking culture!

In which case, The Llamas should be congratulated on their original and thought-provoking work.

Then again if I'm wrong, I still stand by my first idea that a live Llamas gig would be good fun - you could get as drunk as you wanted and still be able to sing along.

last updated: 07/12/05
Have Your Say
Have you heard Ancillary Control? What do you think of it?
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Well what can I say what a debut album. Original and refreshing very different from a a lot of the indie rock that’s around at the moment. If you wanted me to describe them I would say the llamas are across between Less than Jake and the Mighty mighty bosstones. It’s got a great ska bounce to it that makes it fantastic to sing and dance along to but its still got that raw edge to it that makes it great. The Christmas single “snow day” fantastic, its got a good Christmas feel to it will be a great song to play at all those Christmas party’s coming up soon. While your there why don’t you play the album, instead of the boring cliff Richard that usual gets played and kick start your party this party with the llamas. Check them out at there next Live gig aswell!!!

Phil, Edinburgh
Ancillary Control - the debut album by the llamas. What a debut album! The energy, passion and enthusiasm that flows forth can't help but penetrate the hardest soul! 'Island In Your Arms' is the standout track amongst a high quality selection - although 'Don't you want to start' is another favourite. I have already got my copy of Snow Day (the Christmas single) which shows a significant improvement in recording quality and slight change in focus as the band move from a two-piece to a six-piece set-up. I look forward to the next studio album and the inexorable rise of The Llamas!

i've been a big fan of the llamas, running their unofficial website since they began. their music is very good. Island in your arms and their recently released snow day happen to be my favourite, although i do enjoy listening to all of their tracks. im not sure how much of the above review i agree with alhough i must agree the cd sound quality and mixing needs further work. i've seen them live a number of times and each time they leave the audience wanting more of their music. i strongly feel this is a band to watch for the future

A Llamas Fan
I love this album - it has a raw edge and lots of energy. The songs are extremely catchy and you will find them getting under your skin and you'll be humming along for the rest of the day. Concidering the album was recorded (and mixed) in a day by the then 2-piece Llamas themselves, it is pretty impressive. I actually like the production on this album - It make a change to here an album where you can pick out all of the individual parts and instruments (and here the lyrics clearly), For me, the standout tracks are Confusion, Island In Your Arms and Flasher Mac. I look forward to hearing their first recordings as a six-piece (I know they have been in the studio for a few days and have been recording 2 new tracks). They are also an awesome live act - the Watchet FC gig in October was amazing!

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