Elspeth are a Northern Irish band steeped in the appropriate amount of talent associated with the bands that have preceded them; namely Ash, Bell X1 and General Fiasco. The release of their début album, ‘Coax’, shows that they have a more eclectic nature than their counterparts. It is an album of mixed emotions and genres, making it endlessly enjoyable.
‘Coax’ consists of two main genres dominating a varied and interesting album. One, a strong, alternative rock element dripping with ‘90s post-grunge angst and two, a more emotionally aware, softer approach to the alternative style, often tinged with a hint of folk thanks to lead vocalist Gerard Sands’ wide vocal range. The former is most successfully depicted on second track, 24 Hour Paramedics which is powered by a steady bassline coupled with a pop-like, catchy guitar riff and anti-Brit pop vocals in the style of Manic Street Preachers or Mansun. The latter is delivered preciously by Song for Goodbyes; a touching and heartfelt track with tinkering acoustic guitar. It is a quiet, lullaby-like number which generously displays Sands’ beautiful talent. It is his voice, when it hits angelic and falsetto heights, which sets the band apart from any band or artist to whom they may be compared.
You may be more inclined to relate Quick Exit to the folk end of the band’s long spectrum of musical styles. There are yet more spine-tingling falsetto moments in this song and it is soothing and mild, yet catchy; the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea and a good book. Its polar-opposite is Think Back, the track which feverishly opens the album. This track would not be out-of-place on MTV rocks or Phantom FM. It is a purely angst and emotional anguish driven song; the kind of which has been synonymous with alternative music in the past decade.
The heavier and lighter genres provided by Elspeth on their début offering are not always kept at arm’s length of each other. On Grey Morn is a combination of both and is thus the most evocative and instantly lovable track on the album. The chorus/verse arrangement adopts the classic Loud-Quiet-Loud-Quiet set-up that has generated many of the greatest rock songs since the post-metal and post-punk eras. This is harmonised with delectable folk-like vocals and a throbbing, searing electric guitar making it one of the best tracks on the album.
There is one puzzlement on this otherwise high quality album. Mob Journals’ synthetically driven tune offers nothing to the album; it comes as a surprise with its repetitive electro-lite backing track and unremarkable lyrical and vocal content. It is a bit of a red herring, as it adds no more credibility to the album yet it takes nothing away; it’s just there.
There are countless bands on this small island and many form packs dependent on their influences and styles. It is extremely common to come across any number of bands that seem to have the same or a similar sound. Lots of bands adopt the same twangy guitar or power-pop take on things; many others have the powerful, kooky front-woman at the fore of a testosterone driven band. Not Elspeth; they are different. They have joined all of their influences to create an album of songs that could not be dumped into one description or image. This album is one you could revisit and not get bored. Yes, the heavier songs can easily be labelled as newer versions of hits already expelled from Ash for example but with the variety in Sands’ voice and the ability to change from style to style and back again prove that they are not just a carbon copy of any band; they are Elspeth.