There’s always a bit of cynicism when a frontman embarks on a solo project – especially when they produce it themselves. You can’t help but suspect they’re going to do something daft. Without the filters of common sense that are other people, things can get out of hand, and you could end up with something that ultimately, no one wants to listen to other than the person who makes it.
With My Life & 8mm, Kevin Walls (the chap that was in MakethisRelate, now going by the name A Lack Of Colour) deftly sidesteps these potential pitfalls. He isn’t using this as an excuse to chuck everything that pops into his head onto record. The E.P. is a sleek, expertly produced slice of alt-pop. Nothing is overdone or undercooked. All 4 tracks (6 if you order it from his website and ask nicely) are fleshed out with acoustic and electric guitars, drums (from Scott Johnston who also helped with production), the occasional harmony… But ultimately everything is there with the sole intention of adding to the overall quality of the song. That might sound like a weirdly obvious observation, but what I mean is nothing seems out of place, every song has a melodic strand and lyrical theme that is stuck to diligently by every instrument. There’s never an attention-seeking guitar solo, or an unnecessarily exuberant drum-fill. Despite the sometimes laid-back delivery, this is an extremely focused piece of work, and you end up with something that is perhaps worth more than the sum of its parts.
Not that there aren’t some extremely impressive parts on show here (sorry, had to). Walls’ vocal is comfortingly Scottish, and sounds perfectly at home whether up against pop-rock riffs, or quasi-crooning over a string section. ‘The Best of Me’ possesses some tight, propulsive drumming, and a sing-along chorus that initially might seem a little uninspired, but will almost certainly have you subconsciously humming along by the end. Kind of like if Sam McTrusty was fronting Weezer. Again, the smooth production comes into play, as the loud/soft dynamic is introduced expertly. ‘Black Market Body Parts’ is different, letting the vocal melody do most of the work. It builds a little here and there. And just after a lovely little fill, when you think everything’s going to crash in… It goes back to the isolated vocal. It works really well, the restraint showing a Death Cab For Cutie-like maturity and respect for melody. ‘You See In Yellow’ is maybe the least impressive of the tracks in that it doesn’t do anything not already displayed by the others. That’s not to say it isn’t pleasant – the main vocal line is quite pretty and as always the production is perfectly judged.
The title track, ‘My Life & 8mm’ remains the most exciting. From the opening guitar twangs, it’s attention-grabbing. It’s pop-rock of an extremely high standard. The recurring stop-start theme and infectious chorus make it comparable to a slightly more conscientious New Found Glory or Motion City Soundtrack.
It’s worth knowing that My Life & 8mm is a deeply personal set of songs. Conceived around Walls’ recovery from orthognathic surgery (Google it, it doesn’t sound fun), many of the lyrics are quite introspective. There’s hope, uncertainty, outright fear… Sometimes there’s an intensity that belies the music’s outright bounciness. It’s an interesting combination. You could look at this as a character study or as a pop-rock experiment. Either way, it’s expertly crafted and inherently melodic.
My Life & 8mm is out March 25th, and can be pre-ordered on the A Lack Of Colour website. Have a peek at his Facebook page too.
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