Since 2009, The Standby Setting have been making alt-rock in Derbyshire. Lost On Land is their second release, following on from 2011’s Turning Wheels, admirably recorded at warehouse/art space/former grocers’ storage location JT Soar by one Phil Booth. The four piece have been to Italy, hit up festivals, changed members and kept everything DIY.
The production conjured by Mr. Booth is indicative of its setting. JT Soar is a venue/rehearsal space taken on by local bands for those in the community, something that more local acts should aspire to. Reading into the recent history and mentality behind this space was uplifting, and informs in no small way the music of The Standby Setting. Jake Hampson is a man clearly not enamoured with modern consumerism, clearly taking a lot of pride in his lyrics.
Gasoline canters along with youthful verve, the single note lead work and bass lines calling the individuality of Sumner and Hooky to mind . I couldn’t help but notice that the drums speed up a lot during the first verse, but as this happens in all the other versions of this song I found it must be intentional. Initially the vocals sounded like they had been recorded in a bag, but repeated listens allowed them to settle comfortably in the mix. The distanced acoustic and subtly doubled vocals towards the end of the track were a pleasing addition.
Events take a turn for the worst on Empire, which could, in every respect, be a school band. Far too derivative to be engaging, with none of the zest that makes Gasoline so listenable, this was a dark moment that was luckily put paid to by T.V.. This was a revelation in terms of the band’s songcraft – well orchestrated, controlled, indicative of a group settling into their stride and finding a voice. Particularly when put up against the material on Turning Wheels, this is genuinely good, calling to mind Llama Farmers’ more understanding cousins with a bit of Isn’t Anything My Bloody Valentine thrown in. Kellie Parkins’ guitar is more comfortable and individual here, her professed love of The Cure wrestled to a characteristic rather than a weighty millstone. Jake’s sister, Ocean, makes a delicate vocal contribution, something which will hopefully be capitalised upon in future works.
Closing the EP, Small Steps starts in confident vein, almost as if the band recorded these tracks in order, getting progressively bolder as they went on. There are elements of Sonic Youth and flashes of Pavement in the sound, something the band seem to warm to. All of a sudden, however, the track disappears, seemingly cut short.
The Standby Setting are a young band – very young if I’m reading the pictures correctly – but having banged out two releases in 12 months with such a notable escalation in ability, voice and confidence there is a lot more to come, and more of interest. What is strangely reassuring is that rather than suffer from that perennial growth problem of having poor songs with good bits, the band have elected to keep their weakest aspects in one song, leaving the rest to shine brighter as a result. There is much to admire about this release – Lost On Land smacks of a group getting to know their sound and starting to push it. If Kellie (props on the Ultra VI) continues to develop her sounds and Jake his astute lyricism, the songs will follow unhindered and The Standby Setting will grow into a genuinely exciting band.
For now, buy their record and enjoy it, and keep them on your radar.
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