Album Review: 2:54

2:54 (polydor)

Having only been around a mere eighteen months, it seems the wait for 2:54's self-titled debut has been a long time coming. The question is, does it live up to the hype?

Obviously, it would be wrong to judge this duo purely on the hype, but luckily, Not only have I seen them perform a headline show, but have been listening to them when they had just a few demos out. So having followed them along the way, I was eager to hear a full length release, as well as some new (and re-worked) material. Recently popping up on Radio one and other highly commercial stations and websites, 2:54 are receiving a lot of attention, and fresh from a year of touring, they've proved they're more than ready to deliver this record; polished yet still gritty and raw.

The first track on the album, Revolving, is perhaps not the explosive opener one would imagine, but that's not 2:54's style. Sultry guitar swirls and swells over a pulsating beat as lead singer, Collette Thurlow's vocals weave seductively in and out of the balance. The first single taken from the album, You're Early, gradually builds and grows before falling into delicate lulls. Atmospheric backing vocals create a sense of mystique around the track, whilst an almost agitated guitar riff, played by sister Hannah Thurlow, drives the track forwards.

A Salute, although still very much a shoe-gaze style track, has a slightly rockier edge to it with the occasional distorted, dirty guitar chords. Collette's vocals are reminiscent of Garbage's Shirley Manson, while musically, it's synonymous with Eighties Pop/Rock like Tears For Fears. Scarlet, probably one of the most well known tracks on the record, has a definite moodiness about it. The vocals - the main focus - are yearning and pained with a soft vulnerability to them, and fuzzy guitars hark back to the nineties Alt-Rock scene - think PJ Harvey - and more recently The xx.

Sugar is another Grungy affair with a throbbing bassline and a doom-like feel. A welcome addition is Collette's breathy voice which, like the title, lingers over the accompaniment like sticky, sweet sugar, clinging and dripping with each line. Hannah's repetitive guitar melody is honed and precise, bringing a clean resonance to the otherwise blurry song.

Ride is an ominous sounding track with sinister guitar riffs combined with choppy chords and dark harmonies. The vocals are strange and otherworldly, while remaning overtly feminine but still laden with angst. The last song on the album, Creeping, the band's latest single, is a surprisingly laid back track with carefully drawn out intonations and inflections, both musically and lyrically. The drum holds the song together as waves of guitar distortion fill the space. The vocals are perhaps the most distinctive on the record; Collette's grungy cries the epitome of 2:54's compelling sound.

2:54 is clearly an album that oozes craftsmanship and passion, but I have one criticism - and that is the overall pace of the album. There doesn't seem to be much variation in the mould and format the duo delivers. Despite each song building and swelling, I can't help but yearn for them to break out into something more. It feels like each track is always teetering on the brink, teasing the lister with the hope a little 'oomph'. Sadly, on this front, they don't quite deliver.

This is somewhat surprising considering 2:54's well documented influences (the riot grrrl movement, Melvins, etc). However, I think what you have to keep in mind is the way in which these girls approach their delivery. The aggression and energy is there if you look for it - subtle and accomplished under the surface - proving that angry, angst-ridden music doesn't always have to be in your face.