Overlooked in the Aughts is an ongoing feature focusing on some of the best albums from the 2000s that haven’t quite received the attention they deserved. Today’s post: Aereogramme’s A Story In White.
Metal. It’s one word that can just about demolish any band’s chances of gaining the kind of audience they might deserve. Of gaining respect or dignity. It could be the whole image the culture has garnered over the years, one that, at its most stereotypical is funnier than any comedian could possibly contrive.
I don’t like to judge albums by their covers, but back when I was interning at Rock Sound I knew I was in for, well, something, whenever I’d go digging through the new releases and find a CD head-to-toe in black and with multiple dragons on the cover. It was my task to go through all the upcoming releases to be reviewed and categorize them by artist, title, genre, etc. It was a task I absolutely loved, because I was getting the chance to listen to music that wouldn’t be released for months. I was practically frothing at the mouth. That is, unless I’d come upon a CD jewel-case defaced with dragons. It was usually a sign of bad things to come – the level of awful and uncreative metal would often correlate to the number of dragons on any given cover. Of course, I’d give everything equal listening time so that I could properly know what each CD’s contents were, but my dragon-borne assumptions often proved right.
One of the best things about working at Rock Sound was that the folks there helped me get back into metal. Rock Sound is one of the bigger monthly music magazines in the U.K., a country which may not be aware of the quote unquote downfall of print: walk into any convenience store and you’ll find eight daily papers, a couple of free papers and an endless supply of magazines. And they’ve all got their specialties. NME‘s got the “indie” market cornered; Kerrang! has metal in its crosshairs. Rock Sound covers all the bases, but the magazine really focuses its attention on the punk side of things. And if there’s anything that’s second to Kerrang! in the metal department, it’s Rock Sound.
Around the time I was in the Rock Sound offices in London, the spring of ’07, there were a handful of bands the staff and magazine were supporting with religious fervor. One of these bands was Glasgow’s Aereogramme, who had released My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go to country-wide critical acclaim. I remember picking up a copy of Q magazine and reading an interview with one of the guys in Aerogramme: he mentioned that the band never got much support or coverage in the U.K. over the years, with the exception of Rock Sound, who stuck by the band through all the trials and tribulations.
The folks at Rock Sound caught me up on my missing metal education. And I was missing out. And Aereogramme is one of those bands for which I will forever be indebted to the great people at Rock Sound. By the time I caught up to the band, they had practically winnowed the more metal elements out of their material, which may be a reason why My Heart Has A Wish was universally beloved by U.K. critics. But, being my curious self, I made a point to look back into the band’s catalogue. And I came upon a fantastic gem in the group’s debut, A Story In White.
A Story In White begins with the ear-shattering noise fest one might expect to find on a Wolf Eyes album or Melt Banana tune. That is, until the caustic aural collage falls away and “Question Is Complete” really kicks into gear, penchant melody and all. Those handful of seconds that open the album are deceiving, but only if you’re in the mood for being tricked.
The wonderful thing about Aereogramme and A Story In White is that you must listen with one idea in mind: assume nothing. The band may be nominally “metal,” but frontman Craig B.’s soothing voice could be a perfect voice for contemporary adult radio. The group may dabble in prototypical “indie,” but they can lash out metal licks without fear. They may be a bit “prog,” but they’re not afraid to go a bit punk. They’re pop, but dissonant like none other.
My adoration for A Story In White may rest purely on the first half of the record. Tracks like “Post-Tour, Pre-Judgement,” “Egypt,” “Hatred,” “Zionist Timing,” and “Sunday 3:52” just don’t all come along for many bands. And Aereogramme dispersed these songs in the first half of their debut. It’s astounding really. The ability for the group to go from quiet introspection to sheer sonic cacophony without any problem on “Post-Tour, Pre-Judgement” is awe inspiring. And the way Craig B. contorts his voice from a calming coo into a virulent bark all without turning his raspy howls into a feat of metal parody is absolutely stunning. It’s usually shlocky for a metal band to include pianos and violin overtures and feature screaming in the same five-minute track, but for some reason, Aereogramme manage to do it with absolute sincerity and do it well.
So what gives? Why aren’t Aereogramme huge? Well, the trials and tribulations eventually caught up with the band. I found out through the editor’s column in Rock Sound after I left the U.K. that the group broke up the very same year I happened to stumble upon them. Darren Taylor wrote longingly about the first time he watched the band as part of a crowd a dozen strong, and the sense that the band was truly something special was more than apparent and could not be contained in the column’s tiny frame. Why else would Taylor spend years supporting the band in the pages of Rock Sound?
Last I checked, the group ended their tenure on a quick U.K. tour supporting another of the year’s critical darlings, Biffy Clyro. (I think they may have gone on to do one quick solo goodbye show, but I’m not quite sure.) Biffy was receiving more attention than they could carry. And in the opening slot was lil’ old Aereogramme, performing the songs that made them stick out like a sore thumb, that may have made them a leper as a commercial enterprise and that made them as profound an act as any that’s come out of the U.K. this decade.
Aereogramme – “Post-Tour, Pre-Judgement”: