Birmingham is massive but its music scene, less so. The second city increasingly imports talent and offers up a generous and fast-growing spread of club nights and gigs; yet, weirdly, it has exported so few bands of merit.
Calories are a band to make Brum feel proud, though. The trio's second album, after 2009's Adventuring, is an almost unblemished indie-rock tome that rewards repeated listening. Basic Nature comes with little hype and a marketing budget of very nearly zero, yet it is one of the best British guitar albums released for ages. Anthemic lo-fi pop offerings like Mortal Boys and Orchard Girls are about as far from removed from The Twang's embarrassing output as the shiny new Birmingham is from the clapped-out flyover city of yore.
There's a lot to love here. Clearly Calories have listened to a lot of Sonic Youth - the extended ending to the wonderfully melodic Habitations is a tip of the cap to said New Yorkers. And much of the rest of the record seems to look across the Atlantic for inspiration, too. The shockingly catchy opener You Can Be Honest reanimates the corpse of Jade Tree Records emo bands from the late 1990s.
There's an ambitious spread of ideas too: from tense math rhythms to lo-fi fuzz, themes are stretched and played with by the band. But it never feels showy, and if this record ever sounds naggingly familiar, it's probably because it's every bit as great as Adventuring was. Or perhaps you're hearing echoes of the band's previous incarnation, Distophia. Around 2003, they were touted as ones to watch, and shared a label with Hard-Fi. But things didn't quite go accordingly to plan, despite the release of a fantastic mini-album by the name of Soda Lake (do hunt it down).
Distophia's end wasn't all doom and gloom, though, as these musicians have got better over time, and this collection is their best set of songs yet. Plus they now find themselves on a label that's previously released material by HEALTH and Male Bonding, which is slightly more appropriate. Calories can be bad for your body, but Basic Nature sure is good for the soul.
- - -