The debut album by Wiltshire based four-piece Middlenamekill is distinctly old school. There has been a subtle but definite shift in the UK scene’s underground from the musical style of bands like Reuben and Hundred Reasons to the heavier bands of today. ‘When Lions Fight Bears’ style easily matches those in the former category, slowing the pace and opting out of the overt unclean vocals that currently dominate. The fourteen tracks are barefacedly dated, displaying little remorse for a lack of “current-ness” – and herein lays the charm.
Governed by the vocals, the instrumentation forms a subtle backdrop that actively supports front man Stephen Goddard’s clever and meaningful lyrics. Early highlight ‘Welcome to Cloud City’ combines strong melody, minimal guitars and contemplative lyrics in an homage to “turn of the century” British rock bands, and the lack of bravado in the music elevates the band’s sound; there’s no need for double bass pedals, overbearing electric guitars or electronics of any sort here. The tracks are crisp and clean, and display an abundance of quality and charisma.
Middlenamekill have succeeded in creating an album both consistent and raw in ‘When Lions Fight Bears’. It maintains a necessary garage-rock feel without sounding incomplete or unproduced. Moments like the arrival of female vocals on ‘Meet Me on the Ground Floor’ (provided by Caught in the Crossfire vocalist Sadie-Lee Cooper) and the increased ferocity on ‘Eject.Eject.Eject’ manage to catch the listener off-guard, enhancing the impact of the record.
‘When Lions Fight Bears’ may be unashamedly old-school, yet provides the necessary means to introduce a younger generation to a sound that was once at the forefront of British innovation. Middlenamekill have an affluent passion for their art and, on the back of this record, it would be obscene if they are not destined for bigger things.