Remember when a friend recommended Arcade Fire’s debut album to you? You took it home, put it on, heard Crown Of Love, and were surprised by the idea that an indie band could use a string section without it being overblown rubbish. For some reason, it never really caught on.
All credit, then, to The Surgical Staff, who evoke that exact same feeling. The Pennsylvanian six-piece plough that furrow of indie-folk where words like “ethereal” and “soaring” are bandied about ad nauseum. This band, however, offer something a little more grounded. While Arcade Fire are undoubtedly an influence, they perhaps have more in common with a band like Low, with vocals reminiscent of Anathallo (actually, a more accurate comparison for the vocals would be Unbelievable Truth, Thom Yorke’s brother’s band, but, well, Unbelievable Truth were a bit rubbish).
The Surgical Staff are in no rush. They will get to the good bit of the song when they damn well please. Standout tracks The Stranger, or I Was A Fawn display it best, unfurling like a screwed-up map straightening itself out, displaying something intricate and beautiful upon completion. Arrangements on Love Songs For The Falling Leaves ebb and flow, melodies overlap, the songs hit their peak, and then disperse back from whence they came.
It’s great, but not without its drawbacks. There’s 14 songs here, predominantly falling between the 4 and 5 minute mark, and mostly around the same tempo. By the time the band have a good thrash on closer The Ghost (well, thrash is a relative term), you are so used to the walking-pace ballads, that what should be an adventurous and abrupt switch in tone is nullified. It’s a shame that it’s overlong, because in all other respects it is a quality album.
A highly thoughtful record with moments of great beauty. It’s just a bit too long, that’s all.