When a band comes from Manchester, they have some mighty big shoes to fill. The sheer number of legendary acts that emerged from that city is rather mind blowing, from The Smiths to Joy Division, Oasis to the Happy Mondays, there is a lot of musical history flowing through that town. Rather than emulate one of the bands that put Manchester on the musical map, Polytechnic looked to a different place for their inspiration: America.
When listening to their debut long player, Down Til Dawn, the small hints of the band's British influences are mostly covered up by American indie rock. Instead of giving us another "Live Forever" or "Step On," this British band has much more in common with bands such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Pavement. This comes as no surprise to those who first met these lads with their UK single "Man Overboard," which received its fair share of airplay overseas.
Down Til Dawn kicks off with "Bible Stories," a dark jangly track that sounds like the odd combination of Morning Runner and The Stands. Frontman Dylan Giles has a warbly, higher pitched vocal, which is what has been the source of their many Clap Your Hands comparisons. The aforementioned "Man Overboard" is one of the true standouts of the album, sounding like the product of Supergrass being fronted by Stephen Malkmus. The chorus is mighty sweet though, with pounding piano chords and a lush series of backing "ooh ooh oohs."
One of the brightest moments on the album is the aptly titled pop song "Pep." This sunny upbeat ditty could have easily emerged from an up-and-coming indie band from Los Angeles rather than Manchester. They've got handclaps, a catchy synth line and plenty of harmonies, making this a great summertime track. Occasionally their UK influences do pop up, such as on the closing song "Running Out Of Ideas." The indie rock is replaced by a gorgeous melody that has more to do with Echo & The Bunnymen than anything from our shores.
Polytechnic's Down Til Dawn is a solid debut effort, offering up a well-balanced collection of lo-fi indie pop and melancholy British anthems. Now that bands such as The Shins can rock the Billboard charts, the timing couldn't be any better for a band like this. For British music fans with the occasional craving for US rock, this is for you.