O Children - Apnea
Building a strong following with their self-titled debut, London's 'O Children' began making merry across the club circuit and, as a surprise candidate for 2010's album of the year, have made their move from 'criminally underrated' to becoming major contenders amidst the recent post-punk revival.
Boasting one helluva vocalist in Tobi O'Kandi, the stunning frontman continues to shuffle uncomfortably in an expectant spotlight, but, as this album's 11 tracks prove, O Children have emerged as gloomy standard bearers making the likes of White Lies look like a Rihanna tribute act. 'Apnea', their sophomore effort, shows the band moving into new territories; anthemic, panoramic and polished. Opener Holy Wood reminds of why the group were so good in the first place - its combination of icy guitars, delayed keyboards and rumbling tom-tom rolls ooze class, wrapped in an eery, claustrophobic post-punk exterior - think Theatre of Hate with a bit of restraint. The Realest, for all its moody intentions, shows an anthemic soul lurking in the shadows; the obligatory catchy refrain 'Silence won't give us a home/ Violence will give us a home' may appear off-putting to fans of a more commercial leaning, it is painfully infectious and guaranteed to stick in your head for weeks.
If Red Like Fire feels familiar to you, you're on the money. An awkward bridge between the Cure's triumphal 'Disintegration' era and early Soundgarden, it is actually a lot better than my description would have you believe; its synth stabs are prominent, yet never intrusive, and O'Kandi's croon purrs ominously in the foreground. All is well so far, the sound comes across as effortless without feeling complacent, yet experiments with new ideas. The 80s revival continues to haunt tracks like H8 City, which features some atmospheric slide guitar and a vocal capable of testing even the finest of stereo sub-woofers. The most praise has to be saved for lead single PT Cruiser however, which, while its namesake may be one of the ugliest road cars known to man, is a rollicking slice of garage rock powered along by a distortion so dreamy Kevin Shields would be green with envy.
By the time Chimera crashes to a close, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the melancholy has all but left the O Children reheasal room. Given O'Kandi's recent brushings with the courts - the experience from which the album takes its name - this somewhat uplifting tonality seems a little out of place, but you can't help but fall for it. Sure, their black nail-varnished followers may be reluctant to embrace their new sound, but this record shows progression and consolidation in equal measure - a feat so many fail to achieve - and for the more patient among you, will be a rewarding listen again and again.