By Ed Jones
Ought have only been a band for three years, and yet in the space of a year and a half they’ve put out two critically acclaimed (if not very well known) albums and an EP of equally excellent rough cuts. They’ve toured the world almost non-stop in that time as well, and show little sign of slowing down any time soon. It’s also fair to say that as soon as their first album More Than Any Other Day dropped last April, Ought have become one of my favourite bands. With Sun Coming Down, Ought continue this trend even if it’s essentially more of the same.
That said, more of ‘the same’ is by no means a bad thing, especially when ‘the same’ is so incredible and inspiring. Ought’s taut, muscular, DIY punk sound still remains infused with Talking Heads-esque weirdness, while Tim Darcy’s vocals remain mercurial – at commanding bark on tracks like The Combo or Celebration, whereas it becomes softer and more worn out on opening songs Men for Miles and Passionate Turn. It was this vocal style that first attracted me to Ought last year. Darcy’s ability to sound both disinterested with life, but at the same time so overflowing with energy and passion. This is most evident on Beautiful Blue Sky, the album’s centerpiece and easily the best song.
On paper it sounds simple, a list of grievances with modern life and all it’s shittyness, but thanks to Darcy’s clever lyrics it becomes so much more ‘I am no longer afraid to dance, as dancing is all that I have left’ sounds far more like a lyric designed to be screamed and shouted with joy. Lyrics like this appear across both albums, however it’s far more welcome on this second album. Not that it wasn’t on the first, it’s just this second album has a lot less reckless abandon of the first, Darcy sounds bitter, his lyrics darker more brooding. Even the hooks and melodies are a lot more menacing, On the Line and Never Better in particular emphasise this darkness, On the Line starts out as a brooding spoken word, not too far away to something Sonic Youth would have put out in the 90’s before devolving into darker waters. Whereas Never Better is the nail biting closer to the album in particularly furious, but typically strange fashion- we follow Darcy ‘Driving a truck filled with everything’ through what we don’t know, but its a fascinating ride.
Musically, Ought have become tighter, more angular. The opening march from More Than Any Other Day has been replaced with a far more interesting hook, immediately drawing you in once again, the production, whilst still remaining distinctly DIY, gives far more depth for the rest of the band to hide in making the album far more beneficial for repeat listens, each time finding something new in the soundscape.
Ought have once again dropped an album that seems both filled with energy and lethargy at the same time, it improves on almost everything the first album did so well, making it a solid contender for one of my albums of the year, I can’t wait to see what Ought do next because I know it’ll be interesting.
Verdict – WWWW