764-Hero – Get Here and Stay

3 out of 5

Produced by: Phil Ek

Label: Up

By all accounts – except mine, apparently – this is an accomplished album.  Adding bassist James Bertram to the John Atkins / Polly Johnson guitar/ drums duo of their punk-tinged debut, 764-Hero’s follow up doesn’t result in the woeful excess-filled sophomore disc that such lineup additions occasionally invite; indeed, it’s for the best: enriching the group’s melodies without sacrificing the somewhat atonal lilt that is Atkins’ preference.  But while this encouraged some good pop sensibilities – History Lessons, Watch the Silverware – looking forward to what would be employed more fully on their final disc, Nobody Knows This is Everywhere, it equally feels like the group is never sure whether to let loose or tighten things up, leading to a consistent sense of restraint through most of the disc.  Atkins isn’t clearly happy or sad – slow cuts like Calendar Pages and closer Coastline feel like they’re attempting an emotion, not quite achieving it – and the music isn’t clearly rocking or moody.  On the one hand, this matches the mixed-mood vibe of the playfully grey cover, but it makes for a listen that’s toe-tapping, but not particularly lasting.

Not that it’s without its moments of merit (especially for those of us who wish for more Atkins material), and definitely includes some fully solid songs: Loaded Painted Red, the opener, has the kind of lush, soaring nature to it as the stuff of their Weekends of Sound masterpiece, and Typo is blissfully slow (a la the Salt Sinks and Sugar Floats sound), with its dub beat slinking through some effective keys and vocal effects.

If this was your first 764 disc, the way it attempts to straddle several months of their styles (or perhaps can’t commit to one) might end up making it your preferred listen.  But if you fell in love with the group via another disc – like me – Get Here and Stay sounds like they’re holding back.