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.