Review by Joel Hargraves
Chances are if you don’t live in Western Australia or its capital, Perth, you would have never heard the likes of Harlequin League. But after countless tours, two highly acclaimed EP’s and steady radio play across some of the nation biggest stations, the wheels on the Harlequin League express have finally started to roll. Starting out a mere four years ago this group of young aussie blokes has thought of no better time than right now to release their debut album and keep that train rolling progressively along the tracks.
Harlequin League spare no time in giving the listeners of this album something special to move along to, which comes in the form of lead single ‘Welcome To The Fold’. The track opens up with a huge “Ahhh Ahhh Ahhh” chant that begins somewhere in the distance amongst an array of instruments that instantly draw you in. The infectious and swirling chant is aided by the use of effective hook-y guitar rhythms that immediately gets stuck in your head. Before you know it ‘Welcome To The Fold’ has you in its grasps and did so without even the use of a chorus. ‘All Your Wars’ continues this trend by opening with a churning mechanical bass line and a daunting siren like electric guitar, which leads into the repetition of chant “Do Ooh”. Although there is a make shift chorus after the repetition of this chanting, the “Do Oohs” overshadow it and prove to once again be catchier than a chorus would have been. Lead singer James Rogers spits out the verses in ‘All Your Wars’ with a Tin Foil Phoeni-like approach as the bass plays at its own pace before the drumming picks up when this song offers up its heavier side.
Harlequin League continue to build and mix things up with tracks like ‘Charlatan’ a song that has an old school rock aura around it, ‘Two Fists’ which combines obscure lyrics with jagged spacey guitar echoes and ‘Charlie’s Town’ which is a acoustic rock romp laced with a country vibe. Although these tracks prove that Harlequin League are not stuck to one sound, the two songs that stand out off the album are ‘Oh My’ and ‘All Our Fears’. ‘Oh My’ is a four and half minute epic that starts with soft echoing guitar and lyrics that swirl around amongst carefully placed instrumentals to help emphasize the dramatic feel this song is going for. The drumming builds up to a driving pace and sounds reminiscent of Muse’s ‘Knights Of Cydonia’, which by no means is a bad thing. ‘All Our Fears’ comes into play much later on in the album and provides a sense of familiarity and begs to be released as a future single. It kicks off at a rapid pace and big meaty guitar strums push this song forward. Although this song is short lived, you can’t help but feel the band had some real fun in making it.
Unfortunately for the most part the last section of the album is messy and seems as though the structure has fallen apart. The tracks go from an instrumental, to a great song, back to an instrumental, followed by the albums worst track and another instrumental to close out the album. The instrumentals in themselves aren’t that bad and the albums closer is a six minute show of musicianship that feels very exciting. But this album could have benefited from a better arrangement of these tracks, instead of seemingly throwing them in at the end. The band obviously wanted to focus on just the music side of things, but this album was building towards a huge closer, definitely deserved it, but never got it.
At the end of the day what Harlequin League has created can be summarized in two words; infectious and inventive. Harlequin League has experimented with a various arrangement of sounds and styles on this debut, fused with the raw energy that they bring to the studio. Stand out tracks like ‘Welcome To The Fold’, ‘Oh My’ and ‘All Our Fears’ crave to be plugged on radio stations across Australia, whilst songs like ‘Wait, Don’t Stray’ and ‘Charlie’s Town’ require one to listen to them with respect via a pair of top-quality headphones. The only thing holding this album back is the jumbled mess that it ends in, it would have undoubtedly benefited from a better structure. Apart from the ending, Harlequin League have crafted an album with just enough twists, too keep their train running smoothly and making sure it doesn’t stop for anyone.