For the British multitudes that don’t have the wherewithal to hop on a plane to Texas to attend Austin’s annual hipster hangout SXSW, we’re rather reliant on music publications to do it for us and return with the goods. Last year many publications were telling us to watch out for The Districts, a band of adolescents responsible for ubiquitously setting every tongue in attendance wagging – the hyperbole surrounding their set was astounding. If you then staked out their sound on the self-released 2012 Telephone album or their self-titled EP last year and were sorely disappointed then you weren’t alone. For all their adroit instrumentation they lacked a single spark of originality, so locked were they in pentatonic country blues and charmless rural affectations.
But by not actually publicly succumbing to the hype, by not playing the press game, they’ve actually circumvented all the stumbling blocks on A Flourish And A Spoil. The album sounds rather fashionable and not the slightest bit forced. From the opening two-note stomp of ‘4th& Roebling’ there’s no nonsense in their live musicianship. They understand that rock and roll dynamics can’t simply be keyed in to a high-end Pro Tools setup. At times heavy handed, and at times quite cunning and deft, the band supply the combustion for Rob Grote’s voice to soar.
Immediately following that is the radio single ‘Peaches’. It’s the sound of a band getting completely lost in their music and forgetting their own limits. The massive chorus is fleshed out mostly by the psychedelic string bending of Mark Larson. ‘Chlorine’ continues the brazen psychedelia, culminating in towering walls of guitar noise being pierced by an anthemic melody that recalls Hendrix’s reworking of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’. From ‘Hounds’ onwards it seems like The Districts suddenly remember their limits and retreat into a kind of musical safety net. Only on the Tame Impala esque prog freak-out ‘Young Blood’ and Grote’s disaffected and poetic ditty ‘Suburban Smell’ do they recapture their uniqueness. A Flourish And A Spoil is never at any moment a bad album, it’s packed with a cohesive attitude from start to finish. To push any harder on this album than The Districts already do would find them reinventing the wheel – something that, at times, you suspect they’re more than capable of doing with maturity.
Live: Scala – April 28th