Album review: Underground Railroad – White Night Stand
Listen to ‘Russian Doll’:
London-based Parisian expats Underground Railroad release their third album White Night Stand this month. Despite the band having previously confessed their love of American music, their dark and noisy, proggy post-punk definitely has more of a British feel this time around. Well, those gloomy London days were bound to have an effect sooner or later…
Album opener, ‘8 millimetres’ sets the melancholic tone of the album, with a grubby bassline and catchy chorus circa early 2000’s British indie rock. Other album highlights include ‘Russian Doll’ – a slow electronic start building to a clattering, caterwauling climax, with echoing and almost sinister vocals from vocalist/drummer Raphael Mura. ‘Yellow Suit’ (side note: spot the David Lynch references throughout the album!) continues the menacing tone with a truly rocking chorus, this time sung by co-vocalist Marion Andrau, with soaring guitar riffs and thundering drumming – this is Underground Railroad at the peak of their prog-rock talents. ‘Gingko Biloba’ blends electronica, rock and folk to create an intense musical climax.
My favourite track on White Night Stand is ‘We Were Slumbering’ which kicks in with an awesome melodic bassline, uplifting reverby guitars and lofty vocals (and check out that dreamy bridge!)…it’s pure post-rock pop.
There are elements of genre-blending and experimentation throughout the album with the epic (9 minute long) ‘Seagull Attack’ which makes good use of distortion and noise to create a palpable sense of tension throughout the track. ‘Seagull Attack’ features a 6 minute long interlude of ghostly, uneasy strings and gloomy riffs with what sounds like an Eastern European folk influence. The interlude is just a bit too much for me if I’m honest, and I feel the band have taken a wrong-turn somewhere with this track, which languishes self-indulgently in its own gloom and anxiety.
In fact, many of the songs on White Night Stand have an uneasy, minor-key like sound to them which, although they may add to the overall melancholic/menacing tone of the record, aren’t exactly easy on the ear and I’m not particularly fond of them. The album is definitely one that you have to be in the mood for (preferably a somewhat bleak mood) and probably one where you only stick to the songs you like.
Having said that, Underground Railroad do have an uncanny ability to blend different sounds and influences together: I could describe White Night Stand as part shoegaze, grunge, post-rock, post-punk, electronica, folk(!) and prog. And some of the tracks here absolutely rock their socks off. Just fast-forward through the rest.