Album Review: The Lathums – From Nothing To A Little Bit More (Island Records)
Since I first heard ‘From Nothing to a Little Bit More’s very first chorus, minute 1, second 33, when lead singer Alex Moore shouted “I loved you” over the commotion of a floor-tom roll and a downward strum of rhythm guitar, I’ve been reaching for THAT album it reminds me of. The Guardian, you would have read, placed them between Morrissey and the Arctic Monkeys, but that just doesn’t feel good enough.
This album was created as an emotional vehicle for ideas around darkness. You can feel this in the tone that gets held throughout. It doesn’t hold Nirvana’s grungy anger, though the vocals have that pain. Instead, their guitars and supportive strings move with a curiosity, meandering and thoughtful at times, which keeps their youthfulness grounded. The bass and drums meanwhile stay just as foundational as the walls of the room I’m writing this in. Sadly, this helps them be overlooked, standing steady and true as victims of their own success.
Piano opens one of my highlights, Turmoil. The echoey sound of hammers on strings help levitate the solemn atmosphere of a lone voice in the dark. Lyrical Imagery of “my beating heart” and cinematic violins gently lay this track’s story of love lost into a motif of sombre isolation. And just like that, the drummer gives us that big, rumbly, ride-symbol to kick the track into a swaying ode. I was impressed more than anything by the droning, sustained sounds they used. Be it synths or the myriad of strings that guitar bands scarcely get the opportunity to use. Long, sustained, pitches, but they managed to park the bus pretty good with it as the gushing choruses turn the song into an emotional tsunami.
Facets is much busier, with punchy vocals and lyrics that long for a lover, backdropped by an unsensational urban lifestyle. Lines like “I’ll meet you by the station”, “he makes his way through a field of white”, “I will wait in your garden”, are mundane and intimate, fitting this track into a corner of special “Alex Turner” lyricism. Listen a little too close to the words, and they may evocative that ‘Submarine soundtrack’ feeling. Next thing you know you’re reliving false memories of standing in the shoes of your 17-year-old self, ankle deep in rain, all alone outside the window of the worst relationship you’ve ever had, feeling hollow from heartbreak for the first time in your life. It avoids the barefaced “look at my heartbreak for cash” stink of modern love songs, the kind that enraged the Manic Street Preachers into writing a manifesto. It’s instead formatted as a conversation with a friend in a precious moment with scarce witnesses. It is made to be played drunk, late at night, with degenerate mates in-toe, on the way to a rural house party via a farm-track. The Lathums write love songs, but rarely delicate, and moany ones like Morrisey’s.
Dizzying highs meet crushing lows as Rise and Fall is bellowed in loving unison with a lead guitar. Such vim those first few seconds had. Sang in remembrance to days gone by, the fall of Rome is summed up in this description of a man’s personal struggle with what besets on all sides. Smooth reverb effects and a jumpy Proclaimers-style backing guitar keep the song grounded in a “walking with purpose” space, hammering home the changing of the times theme.
Land and Sky is a victory and probably their most creative track without meandering outside of their usual genre. Having drummed for bands like this before, it can be difficult to keep things unique with this kind of play. Mostly 4 on the floor rhythms ripped straight from textbooks. Textbooks with any amount of colour you can sneak in before the vocalist shouts at you. Ryan Duran is exquisite in this sense, keeping within the lines without painting by number. The production sends everything where it needs to be, making sure to keep the powerful drums loud, proud and centre stage: dragging us forward. This is flanked by some guitar accenting that gives a Tom Waits meets Sticky Fingers feel.
I still don’t think I’ll figure out who they sound like. It’s on the tip of my tongue, and it’ll sit there until it sinks in. I can only say that this album successfully captures a certain 2000s sound. Floating about in my memory I think of split-seconds before I became a teenager, the music takes me back to a house party put on by my dads only friend that smoked cigarettes and had tattoos with swear words on them. I thought he was dead cool. A CD player was in the garden (this was 2009). Kasabian, Kaiser Chiefs, The Vaccines and Kings of Leon. The party was warm, full of 20 something year old labourers on their evening off. The garden smelt of fag smoke and beer breath, and “coming of age” music was just wafting into my consciousness as my dad tore me back home, to bed. This exit was pursued by 5 years of disappointing rural free parties where I tried to re-meet that “teenage” noise.
‘From Nothing to a Little Bit More’ sits neatly at a 3.5 of 5. They aimed for diversity and hit a signature tone. While each song is unique, to me, they still felt too similar: I could sit down and listen to the whole album 6 or 7 times but, like the Kings of Leon or the Kaiser Chiefs, what will stick with me most will be a handful of playlist fillers. With that said, I’m looking forward to what they’ll bring out next.
From Nothing To A Little Bit More is out now via Island Records