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Grand National - Kicking the National Habit torrent

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A lesson in how to evoke the heady euphoria of the 1980\'s whilst still offering something different, the first album from Southern England duo Grand National is one of the year\'s surprise treats. Rupert Lyddon forged an early career in a Police covers band and it\'s often quite disconcerting to hear what appears to be Sting making himself heard over a danceable groove. On occasions - as on the impossibly uptempo \'Cherry Tree\' - the music veers worringly towards M People territory but most of the time the Mancunian reference points are New Order and the Happy Mondays. \'Drink To Moving On\', \'Talk Amongst Yourselves\' and the sombre yet slick \'Peanut Dreams\' benefit from some nagging guitar and the final song \'Litter Bin\' represents the comedown once this party is over. Even a revival in SKA music doesn\'t sound such a bad idea on hearing \'Boner\' and the steel-drum indebted \'Daylight Goes\'. Rarely has the past been updated with such inventiveness

4 Stars

There is such a glut of 80s influenced music at the moment that its hard to pick the wheat from the proverbial chaff. The secret, as all the finest bands, is to to find the ones who are simply using it as a starting point to investigate the sounds themselves.

Up to now, that means for going all the also-rans in favour of the art school rockings of Franz Ferdinand and British Sea Power and the funked up twist of The Rapture and Scissor Sisters. Get ready to add a fifth band to that list with the arrival of Grand National, a band seemingly carved in the image of the Police by the drum beats of Stephen Morris on a death of disco dancefloor.

It\'s a more unusual mix than the rest of the latest raft of offerings, but anyone who\'s had the pleasure of their wonderfully uplifting Earth-Wind-and-Fire-a-like Cherry Tree or the Technique-era New Order dark riser that is Talk Amongst Yourselves will tell you why they are so special.

There are numerous other glories on offer. The breathy abandon of Coming Round, the low down and smoky Peanut Dreams, the horns and hubbub of Boner, the desolation and desire of Litter Bin... at every turn, there\'s another moment to Grand National that will delight.

Fuelled with a genuine love of music and the kind of skewed anything goes approach that makes the likes of Basement Jaxx so top, Kicking The National Habit is one of those wonderful albums that is as at home in a bedroom as it is in a club, as ready to burn down a house party as it is to accompany a bus journey home. There have been precious few essential releases this year. This is one.


The music of a few bands has obviously influenced Grand National—the Police’s ska-tinged slick pop, New Order’s insistent basslines, the Happy Mondays’ groovy optimism. But for me, a few newer bands provide a firmer touchstone. The songwriting on Habit is reminiscent of recent Franz Ferdinand-support act Cut Copy; compare “Going Nowhere”, with its melancholy voice and floating melodic line, to any of the upbeat cuts off this album. Similar, too, are the robot-plucked dance-blips of the Presets’ “Girl and the Sea”, though that fashion-conscious duo veers more to the dance end of the spectrum than Grand National. Of all three, Grand National is the least schizophrenic—all the tracks are of a single ‘type’, and it’s a type well constructed, wound tight around Lyddon’s smooth, whispery vocals and La’s disco-funky beats.

The album dishes up some real corkers—tracks that hum and spin their way into your consciousness with a sophisticated insistence. They’ve been playing “Talk Amongst Yourselves” a bit on Australian radio over the past couple of months, and it’s so damn catchy that when I unwrapped this CD, merely the sight of it caused the neon melody to lodge in my head, clamp-like, for days. That’s a true single—shimmery and slick, with polished electro melody. The subtler sounds of other songs seep into your head slinky-step-wise: “Drink to Moving On” with a simple “let’s drink to moving on” chorus; “Cherry Tree” when it explodes into ‘80s dancefloor splendour; “Playing in the Distance” with its preppy stomp beat and an inexplicable trumpet-coiled festival cadenza.

- popmatters.com

The revival for all things early 80s shows no real sign of abating--but as long as there continues to be records made as fine as Kicking The National Habit, the debut LP from Grand National, it\'s easy to be convinced that a spot of nostalgia is no bad thing. Whereas bands such as the Rapture and Radio 4 resurrect the darker side of post-punk, this north London duo--comprising multi-instrumentalists Rupert Lyddon and Lawrence Rudd--hail back to the genre\'s more tuneful outfits: think less the abstruse death disco of PiL, and more the melancholy neo-pop melodics of XTC, the Police, and Talk Talk. Still, this is no out-and-out retro piece. Grand National\'s main skill lies in their ability to twin their fine songs to tight electronic productions, striking the perfect midpoint between live organics and cool digital sequencing: hear how "Playing in the Distance" hooks a weighty club beat to robust live bass and shrieking brass, or "Cherry Tree", which builds its sad rock elegy on a foundation of chic disco beats.

- Amazon.co.uk

source: bbc.co.uk

Artist: Grand National
Album: Kicking The National Habit
Date Of Release: July 26, 2004
Genre: DanceRock, Alternapop, Alternative
Bitrate: CBR 256 kbps

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