The Districts released their debut album, Telephone, in 2012, although those who heard their name bantered around in 2014 can be forgiven for assuming that last years self titled EP was the band’s first recorded effort. Following sell-out shows on either side of the Atlantic – in humble venues, admittedly – The Districts soon became an act for whom the hype lived up to the name and, a year later, the album lives up to its build up.
While The Districts EP demonstrated blues-fuelled rock drenched in Americana and porch rocking-chair chords, A Flourish And A Spoil is an instantly more polished effort. Lead single ‘Peaches’ offers thoughtful lyrics (“I don’t want to write God’s name into my will”) over their familiar warm fuzz, with a chorus that demands to command a festival crowd. It’s their most mainstream moment so far, and while Kings Of Leon comparisons are only natural, this will hopefully be the closest they get to the Followill’s sticky dance floor fodder. It’s worth pointing out that while the chorus is an undeniably catchy one, the verses are the stronger, arguably more accessible moments, cruising through the track before the foot-down finish of the instrumental outro.
Even before ‘Peaches’, opener ‘4th And Roebling’ offers a cocky stroll and introduction to the band’s first major LP, with a Strokes-y bass-line and foot-tapping rhythm, crescendoing throughout and carried by frontman Rob Grote’s gruff growl. Between their previous releases and A Flourish And A Spoil, Grote’s vocals appear to have become more relaxed as his confidence has grown, on a track that meanders between their gentle blues and coarse rock ’n’ roll.
It’s not to say that their musical roots are forgotten, however, with the purely acoustic ‘Suburban Smell’ enforcing the fact that the Pennsylvanian four-piece are still a young band. With lyrics depicting parties at rich kid’s houses and getting stoned in basements, it’s almost an American remake of Arctic Monkey’s ‘A Certain Romance’ – pouring what surrounds them into poetry and song, accessible to those who saw it with their own eyes and appealing to those whose only connection to Lititz, Pennsylvania is the band. “I am not like them, I’m leaving cause / I’m sick of watching them watching the retard dads,” Grote croons, offering a reason for the band’s need to create music and use it as their tool to travel the world; a fortunate decision and turn of events for those of us who crave simple, raw honesty in their music libraries.
There’s experimentation with the robotic electronics of ‘Bold’ laying beneath the swamp of their natural sound, and with ‘Sing The Song’s warped, Macca-esque psychedlic keys a possible Temples influence, following The Districts’ support slot on their US tour. ‘Chlorine’ offers a stomp-stomp-clap, early KOL beat, while ‘Hounds’ is equally fuzzy as it stumbles from jerky verses to a floating, falsetto chorus.
At almost nine minutes, penultimate track ‘Young Blood’ plays as a mini-epic, building naturally from the raised porch to the higher stages they’re beginning to call home. “It’s a long way down from the top to the bottom” will no doubt become a future, favourite sing-a-long, while the refrain of “All we are is all we are” during closer ‘6AM’ (sounding as though it was cut in one take in the garage) should echo around venues long after the band have left the stage. Highlighting a clear ease for frown-inducingly-impressive melodies, with lines that linger like prose (“Read short stories while you twitched in your sleep beside me / your breath it felt so heavy and sat there in the dark”), this could be the most impressive debut from a home-grown four piece since Youth & Young Manhood or Definitely Maybe.
But then again, you get the impression that it was only ever written to escape the suburban smell, and perhaps pick up some new senses for more material along the way.
A Flourish And A Spoil is out on 9th February via Fat Possum Records.