Ah yes. The break-up album. It’s a concept that can provide an often fascinating journey into someone’s personal experiences in love. Think of those classic records – Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, Willie Nelson’s ‘Phases And Stages’; more recently of course there has been the angst-laden keening of Adele’s ‘21’, Noah & The Whale’s ‘The First Days Of Spring’, and now, joining the ranks is The Ainsley Band’s ‘5-4-3-2 She’s Not The One’.
The Wakefield quintet formed in 2012 around the eponymous Michael Ainsley after a solo album and EP. Alt indie punk is the label ascribed to the band, and last year’s ‘Cyclone’ and ‘Devil’s In The Detail’ albums, released within five months of one another, pointed towards a ‘70s pop punk sound – memorable hooks, aggressive playing and a keen sense of raucous New Wave enjoyment.
In recent times, though, Ainsley’s had no luck with the women and now we have to hear about it. The Night My Head Imploded is the brief, misleadingly upbeat intro to this album’s largely acoustic tale of break-up and woe. Woe, woe is Ainsley.
On These Failures – sonically reminiscent of The Cars’ My Best Friend’s Girl – he’s like a male Kate Nash, giving out about his lost beau’s mates. It’s not the first track on the album that would benefit from the full-on electric treatment, with its catchy “5, 4, 3, 2 she’s not the one” lyrical hook.
He’s not completely oblivious to the self-pity that abounds, though, with the “It’s about time I grew up” admission on Torn Photograph (Idiot), another catchy tune weighed down by maudlin cliché. “I hope you didn’t mean what you said” he pleads. We think she did, man, given the empirical picture this song cycle has painted.
The hackneyed lyricism gets worse with Letter Let Her Go – “If I let you go who’s gonna hold my hand”. Five songs in and he’s still hurtin’, folks – “I’d rather die than see her in the arms of another man”. And all this after his previous statement about growing up. Go figure.
It’s a pity really, because there are some fine tunes in here that find themselves bogged down in self-absorption. Stuck In Freefall features an infectious Arcade Fire-like choral singalong section, and I Think About You Always with its folky stomp is a great bit of craic, musically. Lyrically…well, he needs to let that shit go. She’s gone, man, and the record’s nearly over. Are we getting any catharsis here? More importantly, is he?
Piano-led ballad Push and Shove sees the album out, and Ainsley declares “I believe I could take care of you forever”. If nothing else, we hope the girl on the receiving end of this hears it and gives things another shot. That or spells the situation out to him a bit more clearly. “…the hope of a thing called love” is the album’s final utterance; Ainsley’s relentless optimism in the face of insurmountable odds is nothing short of heroic. Give him another chances, missus!
Considering the band’s previous endeavours this is certainly an experiment in stripped-down soul-bearing, but it’s the stripped-back nature that makes the weaknesses all the more apparent. By the end of this you’ll be figuratively grabbing our unfortunate champion by the lapels and screaming in his face to get over it. Having said that, we’d love to hear this mystery woman’s response album, see what really went on here.