2001, Music

Any Other City (2001) by Life Without Buildings

This is a fairly straight-ahead indie rock/post-punk revival album that succeeds primarily on the energy of the band and the charisma of Sue Tompkins.

I’m not sure I’ll be thinking about any of these songs in the distant future. That’s not to say they’re bad, only that they’re fairly generic, especially for this particular sub-genre of 21st century indie rock wherein late ’70s/early ’80s British music was revived. The songs are not the thing here, and I feel like fans wouldn’t disagree.

What draws us to the record is Sue Tompkins’ performance, which is idiosyncratic in the extreme, though hardly without precedent. She talks, shouts and kind of sings. She appears to cut herself off, she doesn’t finish words. If you didn’t listen to late ’70s/early ’80s underground British rock music made by women, you might think she was a wholly original singer. I hear the Slits, like the rest of you, but I also hear a heavy dose of Poly Styrene. This isn’t a bad thing – if you’re going to revive older music it’s good to revive the stuff nobody knows about! I don’t know how many people who first encountered this were massive Slits fans or X-Ray Spex fans.

When I am actually paying attention to the words – which can be hard because Tompkins really does succeed on the way she performs, more than on the content of her words – I think I like her lyrics. And does feel like a shame that she left music proper for more esoteric performance art.

The band is exactly what’s needed here: as I said they are playing fairly generic music given the influences, but they play it well, with enough energy to match Tompkins, clearly the star, but not so much that they take anything away from her. And the guitarist is interesting enough that it maybe isn’t as generic as I make it out to be.

Quite good stuff, even if it is revivalism.


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