2:54 – 2:54Posted by Aaron Sharpsteen
Musical momentum is an interesting thing. Would-be listeners are constantly bombarded by new bands and acts that are unheard of one week may be the talk of the town the next. With their self-titled debut album, the UK’s 2:54 make a noteworthy splash by filling a niche that hasn’t been filled since the 90′s: mid-tempo femme alt-rock.
Filling that niche in no way suggests that 2:54 is derivative. The most impressive aspect of this album is how comfortably different styles nuzzle up to each other, as heard on “Scarlet.” The song starts out with a twin guitar intro which is reminiscent of Built to Spill. The mood is shattered by a cymbal crash and a bass-line that could have been culled from early Queens of the Stone Age, backed up by a drum beat so deep in the pocket that it almost disappears. Over all this, the vocals of the Thurrow sisters soar high and stand out.
“You’re Early” further highlights the vocal prowess of the duo. Back-up “oohs” and “aaws” float behind a very convincing lead pleading, “I just want to be close.” This emotion is compounded by a repetitive, delay-drenched guitar line. If this song was 20 beats per minute slower it would find itself squarely in quality shoe-gaze country, shaking hands with the ghost of Slowdive.
This mixture of ethereal guitars and vocals with more straightforward, driving bass and drums is repeated with the same success all over the album. Other highlights include the opener, “Revolving,” which finds 2:54 hitting a little harder and going a little faster than on the rest of the album, and the closer, “Creeping,” which has guitar-strings being bent so fervently in the opening riff that one will pine for the days of early Modest Mouse.
There is no ignoring the fact that the drums and bass are doing the same thing on every song. While some might try to spin this as consistency, it comes off as unimaginative at stretches. Are eighth notes the only thing the bassist is allowed to play? And must the drummer commit to simplicity on the level of AC/DC? This repetition has the overall affect of denying the album something important: emotional variance. There is no parabolic build up here, no distinct high points to climb or low points intended to descend to and discover.
This flaw can be overlooked, however, and that is a testament to the musicianship of 2:54. They are still playing music which is quite unlike most other music played today, fitting somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between True Widow and La Sera. While the tempo throughout the album may not change much, the amount of different influences on display as well as the genuine quality of the vocals ensures that this album will be on repeat for quite a while.