"Here Are The Roses" (Album, 2007) !DSO Recommended!
I can probably count the amount of times I've recommended a debut album on this website on the fingers of one hand. Here Are The Roses from UK band DRAGONS (its always spelt with block capitals apparently) possibly takes me onto a second hand and for that key moment, if nothing, else they demand serious attention. Formed around drummer David Francolini and singer Anthony Tombling Jnr, DRAGONS hail from Bristol, home to other musical talents such as Portishead, Massive Attack and The Pop Group. There's intelligence, vibrancy, drama and passion that runs throughout Here Are The Roses that is just exhilirating to hear. An awful lot of people go into music because they want to. Judging by the ten tracks here, Francolini and Tombling seem to have little choice. This sounds like an natural outpouring of emotion, coming from wise minds and passing through skilled hands in the process.
Those looking for some contemporary benchmark might refer (like the press release) to a clever cross referencing of Editors and Depeche Mode. Electronic rock is the label that the band themselves have used and if we must restrict ourselves to two words then I can go with that. A glance at the dark artwork to their first long-player, depicting purple roses trapped in ice, forces memories of the thrilling formative years of 4AD and those glorious 23 Envelope sleeves. Think Cocteau Twins covers and you're there in an instant. Musically too, the more empassioned, thoughtful and alternative side of the early to mid 1980s and UK acts like The Cure, Joy Division, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Chameleons, even The Cult are all distinct points of contact during this debut. An impressive enough list to be lined up against. But that's not the half of it. No, the impressive bit is how DRAGONS hold their own against such weighty name-checking. For it isn't that the band seeks to emulate those artists, it's more that they are ingrained into the very fabric of Here Are The Roses... as if they'd simply been cut from the same cloth.
Thankfully, though this takes inspiration from the past it never wallows in it, and rather than rely upon one, simple formula, it also manages to pull off various compositional forms, with Tombling Jnr's vocals convincing in every guise. Two songs which sit back to back on the album and demonstrate ther range of DRAGONS stylistic capabilities are the anthemic and uplifting Lonely Tonight which somehow sounds destined for a stadium performance at some point in the future. Then, in stark contrast, the brooding Remembrance, that with its slow bassline, echoing voice and shimmering keyboards, conjures up monochrome images of a rainy Manchester before it lost the plot with the 'Mad' prefix. Jabbing guitars, smacking percussion and urgent vocals fill the three-and-a-half minute Condition, a charged anthem high spot in an album of already high standards. An absolutely thrilling debut and without a doubt one of the albums of 2007. 8/10
Dyer (January, 2008)