Nathan Loughran, frontman for The Reverse, runs a successful series of live shows in London named ‘Under The Influence’. In this event, new bands get the chance to play two of their own songs and are then set the challenge of performing a cover version of the month’s featured artist. Looking back it was in 2004 when I reviewed the first EP by London’s The Reverse, where I compared them to mid-late 1990’s literate indie rockers, Gene and Clearlake. It has taken them ten years to release their first album and on ‘Kind Words For Cruel Times’ they appear to be under the same influences as they were a decade ago.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Gene are currently receiving something of a revival thanks to a reissue of their first album whilst Clearlake never seemed to get the audience their idiosyncrasies deserved. Loughran himself is a decent frontman and a fine lyricist in his own right too. After a subdued verse on the opening ‘Encore’, the guitars kick in and the song is driven forward to give it some much needed vitality. Propelled by a ringing, winning melody, ‘Atoms’ is infectious and likeable. A moody ‘Then They Came For Us’ stands out with its string-embellished chorus, whilst what could have been a crass reference to the ubiquitous model/presenter Myleene Klass is turned into a clever, infectious and rather sweet little song. Elsewhere, on a more reflective second half to the record, there’s a touching and sad tribute to a lost loved one in ‘The Longest Day’ whilst the excellent ‘Lucy’ revisits The Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ for inspiration.
In fact the album as a whole is a consistently good set of songs even if it never quite elevates itself out of mid-90’s indie guitar rock territory. Loughran stands out as a witty and self-effacing performer and no matter how under the influence he may be, his bittersweet, nostalgic songs stand up well in a world of faceless popular music.
Gene, Clearlake, Lloyd Cole And The Commotions