London After Midnight, "Violent Acts Of Beauty"
Sean Brennan's become the goth Axl Rose over the past decade. No, seriously. Much talk of a new London After Midnight record was thrown about for years with little to show except a revolving-door parade of band members coming and going and the odd cover or oddity squeaking out on a movie soundtrack (I swear - the "Saw" soundtracks exist only to fulfill bands' contractual obligations with Trisol). The crucial question about a new record remains the same for both men: giants in their respective scenes and times, will they be able to release a record that doesn't make them sound hopelessly out of touch after all these years, yet won't alienate their loyal fanbase? Admittedly, the stakes are somewhat higher for Axl given all of the very public bad blood with former band members and the intense scrutiny and debate that arises every time another release date or canceled show crops up - ask yourself honestly, how many times have you asked yourself what London After Midnight were up to in the past five or six years - but unlike Axl, Sean still has his hips and hasn't opted for Dexter Holland-style braids. Chalk one up for pretty boy.
Anyway, the record. It's good. Excellent, in fact. No really, listen...
It's mournful in a majestic, rather than whinging manner, which, come to think of it, is a thin divide by which many goth bands live and die. Moreover, it's punchy and aggressive in a fashion that you just don't hear in goth rock anymore. In short - the band's roots in the second wave of goth are a big help, not a hindrance here.
This isn't to say that "Violent Acts Of Beauty" is a nostalgia trip - far from it. There's much here that's fresh and relevant. One could also point out a couple comparisons to more recent acts that certainly aren't a knock at LAF: there are occasional flourishes of the yobbish techno-pogo that Katscan have used so well in recent years in "Nothing's Sacred" and "America's A Fucking Disease" calls Snog's "The Human Germ" to mind, and manages to deploy jazz flute flourishes without falling completely on its face, an accomplishment worthy of praise alone.
On top of all this, the songwriting itself is spot on: as a rule it's compelling and memorable material that I'll wager will reward repeat listenings, aided in no small part by Brennan's excellent guitar work. The innumerable socio-political clusterfucks that have jarred the cultural consciousness since LAF's last album ensures that there's a minimum of the cheesy demon lover/dark desire lyrics of the "Your Worst Nightmare" ilk. There are also a couple of club tracks that'll likely make for adequate DJ fodder without compromising home listening. So good on Sean Brennan: he's proven the doubters (myself included) wrong and has with one album turned a band that was little more than a vague memory from the Cleopatra days of yore into a relevant force to be reckoned with.