Formed in 2002, the brilliantly named 25 Yard Screamer have released a steady stream of albums since, 2007’s Cassandra raising their profile with the track Blacklight making it into Classic Rock magazine’s list of the top 100 songs of the year.
A compelling mix of Marillion, Rush, Porcupine Tree and Metallica got them noticed but the band have continued to develop their sound and 2016’s Keep Sending Signals, their sixth album and second release on Rob Reed’s White Knight label, features four brand new pieces of music and four reworkings of very early material which will not previously have been widely heard.
For some reason it has taken me ages to complete this review – probably longer than it took to make the album – which is a shame as from first listen it was obvious that quality abounds in Keep Sending Signals and 25 Yard Screamer certainly know what they’re about when putting together a compelling piece of music.
The four re-imagined tracks comprise the best three from 2003’s debut album, The Pictures Within, and Pulse, a favourite from second release, 2005’s Approaching From An Oblique Angle. It’s the longest track here, allowing the band to stretch out more than elsewhere, and an excellent piece with a real grittiness in the guitar mixed with a pleasing ‘live’ sound, particularly for the drums. All of the performances are excellent and this is most certainly a rock album, largely directed to the core drums/bass/guitar trio of the band, but the sporadic contributions from Tom Bennett, often of piano, work well. Tom first collaborated with 25YS on 2013’s Something That Serves To Warn Or Remind and his addition certainly helps to expand the sound and add different textures, as with his solo piano section at the end of Pulse.
Of the other re-imagined tracks, The Pictures Within moves from monastic soundscape into guitar led throb and an expansive rock piece. The largely instrumental I’m An Explosive clearly features Bennett’s influence in the orchestrated intro before a gentle guitar picking that belies the title. The burst of staccato guitar builds tension and momentum is maintained with piano additions until Nick James’ excellent vocal finally arrives 4 minutes in. For me the real highlights of the album come from Nick’s vocals which are superb throughout, rich and warm with a range and clarity that can easily deliver the nuances of the material. Closer No Beautiful View is a lovely thing, restrained and slow burning, building to a lovely crescendo, again with the addition of piano textures.
The new material features the first pieces written with Tom, the broadening of the available sounds becoming immediately clear during the atmospheric introductory soundscape that is Part One of the title track. A beautiful harp appears towards the end, adding a hint of fragile melody that is picked up in Part Two, a tense start opening out for the rocky chorus, a dense and sinister instrumental section in the middle working a treat. Pages is direct but with plenty of room for ebb and flow between chorus and verse, while A Memory is scratchy and edgy with, as usual, an excellent vocal. It sounds like they were all playing together and Donal Owen puts in a good shift, dexterously giving his kit a sound thrashing.
Keep Sending Signals works as a complete album and is a fine representation of where 25 Yard Screamer currently stand. This is a quality band and no doubt a great live act as I’m sure that the core trio put on a muscular live show. Well worth checking out, this is a band that are maturing and expanding their palette, it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.
01. Keep Sending Signals, Pt.1 (3:14)
02. Keep Sending Signals, Pt.2 (7:04)
03. Pulse (8:37)
04. Pages (5:29)
05. The Pictures Within (6:31)
06. I’m An Explosive (6:59)
07. A Memory (6:30)
08. No Beautiful View (6:14)
Total Time – 50:38
Matt Clarke – Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Spoken Word
Nick James – Guitar, Keyboards, Fretless Bass, Vocals
Donal Owen – Drums & Percussion
Tom Bennett – Guitars, Keyboards
Abbi James – Spoken Word
Record Label: White Knight Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 5th September 2016