WE USED TO MAKE THINGS - WE USED TO MAKE THINGS
LCM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Release Date: 9th September, 2016
Genre: Alternative Indie Pop
Band Members: Matt - (Lead Vocal), Jan-ai (Vocals, Percussion), Marv (Guitar and Vocal), Mr. Cus (Hammond, Piano), Kenneth (Bass and Vocal), Ben (Drums), Yusuf (Trombone) and Joe (Synth, Organ)
Location: Hackney, London, UK
Record Label: WUTMT / Wave365Media
We Used To Make Things are one of the best and most exciting live bands in London, so it was very interesting to see how that performance and stage energy would be translated into their independently released self-titled debut album. I'm happy to report that this album is like a joyful, infectious street party with plenty of added fireworks. It's coupled with moments of experimentation, melancholy, modern day trials, tribulations and angst. WUTMT are such a fun band but also one with a huge conscience, bags of talent and tons of heart. Clever and thoughtful lyrics flow through the album, which dovetail with their wonderful trademark four-part harmonies and musicianship. This unique Hackney-based 8 piece indie-pop band are brimming with melodic hooks, fat grooves, big horns, incisive lyrics and sublime vocal harmonies the Beach Boys would be proud of.
Their story begins four years ago when singer Matthew (a Yorkshireman), lost his job as a youth worker running a successful music project for young people in one of the most deprived parts of North London. The result of the austerity that came in the aftermath of the financial crash of 2008. Left disillusioned, Matthew started to write lyrics that helped him poke fun at the absurdity of the world we live in. This was the catalyst for the song 'We’re All Messed (F*cked) Up.
At the same time an early incarnation of the band was taking shape around Matthew, Ben (drummer & producer) and Marv (guitarist), the band’s new song-writing team. Together they had a dream of combining their own original mix of The Specials horn section, The Kinks’ worldview, The Beatles’ hooks, The Beach Boys’ harmonies, The Divine Comedy’s & Squeeze's wit and Elbow’s grandeur. They then chose a name that hints at both the disillusionment within post-industrial Britain. But also more personally at the danger as adults, of losing the ability to play, make mistakes, be creative and ultimately....to make things.
The songs that were written in this period flowered into a bigger lineup of musicians and an unlikely set of friendships. WUTMT spent the coming years developing a rich sound and an infectious sense of family, both onstage and off, which established them as a superb live act playing in festivals around the country. Their speciality became taking negative feelings and making these a joyous and cathartic experience for their live audiences and themselves.
Very early on the band were approached and courted by various music industry figures, but over the course of time they felt more inclined to pursue a DIY ethic, one where they could fully realise the sound in their heads. This would prove to be challenging at first but they learnt a lot during this period. Their perseverance and commitment to their own vision resulted in this their forthcoming self-titled and self-produced debut album.
But WUTMT are more than catchy pop songs, they have created a sublime, fresh and clever fusion of music perfect for 21st century living. It is an album that will get your toes-tapping, your face smiling and your head nodding knowingly at the clever streetwise and powerful social commentary in the songs.
The Band released their very strong debut EP 'Love in a Minor Key' in 2015 to critical acclaim and it's great to see some of those original tracks included on the new album.
The songs on this album are shaped by warm, witty lyrics about dissatisfaction, personal politics, open plan offices and the kind of characters Mike Leigh and Pinter would be proud of. It is in turn funny, poignant and angry but also very good to dance to.
With it's 'loud and proud' brass intro the album begin with the very catchy 'Stillness of An Actor'. Together with Matthew's muted mega-phone vocals, catchy guitar riffs, hints of Ska and almost 'Doors' like keyboard riffs. "Always followed my own path, the path of least resistance. Never found too much depth, but covered lots of distance. In this life I never change, but I'm always seeking new things to explore and rearrange.....Don’t look for answers here my friend....They're closing libraries in Mile End." A song that's bang up to to date is 'I Like Therefore I Am (The Google Song)' The joys of the internet and social media for the ordinary man and woman. This is retro Beatleque with hints of almost ELO and Take That in the choruses. Very clever lyrics and wonderful harmonies here again. "I tried to entertain the notion (I tried to entertain it). But I’m the Volkswagen of emotion (more like a mechanic). I like therefore I am… I like therefore I am…I guess I'm just an ordinary man. When I google my name. It’s always the same. A turgid sense of emptiness, I've fought the wrong campaign. For a man that sees the value in every single thing I do. I couldn't see the value in you"
'Colin Is Unwell' is a slice of pure office hell. You can imagine an huge open plan call centre with long hours and low pay. The intro starts with 'delightful' telephone hold music and the sounds of the modern office. Colin escapes for a few days to recharge his batteries, as his in-tray and workload increases in his absence. Real hints of 'The Divine Comedy' here with it's clever lyrics. Remember 'Careless talk cost lives'. "There’s an empty desk and everything around just carries on. He's feeling emptiness. His colleagues saw it coming all along. Colin is unwell, I read it in my morning mail. And all the office says 'I know I know I know'. He’s not a timid man. He tries his best. He takes a few days off to get some rest. Please don’t pester him. Don’t send a text.....Just be strong for Colin". With a new album version, modern day angst continues with 'Yes Man (No No No)'. A catchy track and always a live favourite. Love the very clever lyrics in this one. "I don't care for firework displays....an easy life is all I pray......I don't want to be pedantic, but your accent is turning transatlantic". 'Riley's Keeping Faith' starts with a phone conversation. This is again this is very cleverly written and almost 'Beatleque'. "Still I keep coming for more, before the ref’s finished counting, my corner is shouting ‘hall yourself up of the floor’. Am I man or machine a psychiatrist’s dream? An equal or opposite force? A procrastinating, slightly irritating, 'Rebel Without Any Cause'. Oh what a man, oh what a man. It’s sickening how some of us can’t and some of us can". Life's frustrations continue in 'C U Next Tuesday' . "If you’re giving me the same advice....I’d rather get it from somebody nice"
One of our firm favourites on the album due to it's lush four part harmonies and super songwriting is the wonderful instantly catchy 'Love In A Minor Key'. The title track from WUTMT's debut EP. Sublime string arrangement and foot tapping percussion. If there is any justice, this should be a big hit for the band.
Changing the tempo 'What Are We Fighting For' is a beautiful reflective ballad with a new brass section included on this album version. It gives it almost a northern brass band feel. Jan-ai's sweet vocals sweep across a superbly written string section. "It’s safe to say that we’re both soldiers, fighting an uncivil war and neither of us can remember just what we’re fighting for. I remember when we first met, they tore down the Berlin Wall. But we’ve managed to rebuild it again and made it twice as tall." Another firm favourite is 'Gravity'. The new version album has been turbo-charged with new string, horn and percussion sections and a great remixed ending....which we wouldn't reveal. We like surprises.
'Peter Sing!' reminds us of the classic Madness track drifting into the Beatles and ending with an Elbow's 'One Day Like This' style singalong. "In the race to be all you can be, I feel of infinite density. Am I a singularity? What’s good for you is not always good for me. The longest walk, the shortest pier. Live in hope and not in fear. It’s a thin line when you’re making do. Someone, somewhere, will always have it worse than you". An ode to a city I know very well 'Manchester' is next. With its pedal steel it drifts into country and Americana territory Love the lyrics here "Forget your route 66, I’d rather get my kicks on the M62 with you. It doesn’t always have to be like Thelma and Louise, everything will be fine, when you’re travelin’ on the road with me"
Another ode to modern life is 'We Are All Messed (F*cked) Up', which many will say perfectly sums up our current situation in the world. It was the song which inspired the Band's name. A 'state of the nation' address that highlights that it’s not only the world that is inherently unhinged. People are always looking for differences, so why not celebrate our similarities. "Now everybody’s painting trees, with concrete underneath.. Whoever said that life’s a breeze, was lying through their teeth. Whichever way you want to look.....Now everybody’s shaking hands, while making other plans. From Canning Town to the Sudan, we're sinking in the sand. Who said that life’s an open book? We're all messed up"