(Dance to the Radio, released 24 Feb)
Leeds briefly thought itself hip in the mid-Noughties. The NME had invented “New Yorkshire“, and A&Rs were scrabbling round for the new Kaiser Chiefs, like one weren’t already too many. Into the midst of this flew The Pigeon Detectives, trademark northern monkeys in skinny Levi’s and leather bombers, whose exuberant Soccer AM indie hung around the Top 20 like a fug of Lynx Voodoo at the youth club disco. They got the job done, if that job was pogoing with a Carling to forget your ex going home with that twat she met at college.
All that exuberance has vanished now, on this, their fifth album. Broken Glances is painted in sombre tones. Riffs spiral downwards instead of fizzing up. A dejected bass mopes around eeyorishly. It gets up-tempo, but never really upbeat. Full marks to the designer who put those plummeting bombs on the front cover; they fit the bill.
Ordinarily, this might read as the pre-break up jadedness of a band entering their second decade. Diminishing commercial returns and fading profile often begin to bite just as contemporaries settle down with houses and families and proper jobs. That’s probably not the case here. The sound is that of a more mature band making a sincere move into, for them, new sonic territory.
It’s territory we’ve visited before, of course. This is the gloomy English indie landscape of the Bunnymen and the Cure, turfed over and glamped up for a Millennial festival crowd. That smoothing over of rough edges, in fact, is the main frustration with the album. Every time it threatens to get melodically interesting (the weeping arpeggios of Enemy Lines, the fractured guitar line of A Little Bit Alone) or structurally different (the stumbling outro of Postcards), it feels constrained by its own insistence on a simplistic, punchy pay-off. In their anthemic striving, they get so close to the icy majesty of British Sea Power, but often end up a bit sub-Killers.
Whatever its limitations, though, Broken Glances earns the Detectives new respect. Most of the New Yorkshire names barely saw out the last decade, but this ought to buy them enough goodwill to see in the next, and is a world better than the cynical, auto-tuned guff the Kaisers last put out.