Six By Seven
’ve seen reviews of 04 that have referred to the perennially overlooked Six By Seven “finally finding their voice” or some such drivel. No. They’ve had their voice for quite a while; it’s just that no one has been listening.
Back in 1998 Six By Seven put out their first album, the rather modestly excellent The Things We Make, filled with long, droning, noisy epics. Their next two efforts, the shoulda-been classic The Closer You Get and the underperforming (but quite good) The Way I Feel Today found them getting more compact and angrier. Songs like “Cafeteria Rats” and the supremely self-excoriating “Bad Man” are little more than frenetic gobbets of spite although “All My New Best Friends” hinted at something lighter through all the gloom and fury. If they kept on that path, eventually they would have released a record with eleven thirty-second blasts that could actually kill people and one gorgeous love song. Which would have been interesting, but events intervened…
In addition to losing their label, Six By Seven also lost two members. I assumed (wrongly) that if the band survived frontman Chris Olley might pursue the more modest aspects of their sound, but there isn’t any reduction in scope here. These nine tracks pile drone upon drone, guitar upon guitar, noise upon noise in an even more impressive fashion than The Things We Make; It’s not a return to that sound so much as an expansion of it. And it’s happier, amazingly enough. The amazing “Ready For You Now” and “Bochum (Light Up My Life)” are about the most joyful Olley has ever sounded.
There’s still plenty of the ol’ doom and gloom, or course: The fractured, desolate “There’s A Ghost” revolves around the question “Were you wrong to haunt me like you did?” and the last proper track is chilly ten minute techno-drone called “Leave Me Alone”. But things don’t feel quite as scabrous. That approach had its appeals: The Closer You Get is one of the most astounding expressions of sustained disgust (self and otherwise) in the form of a rock album outside of The Holy Bible, but 04 feels balanced. That, combined with the increased heft of the sound and the fact that they still write great anthemic songs (“Catch The Rain” could be a much beefier Doves) makes those nine tracks the best Six By Seven album, and a must-hear for anyone who likes, say, Spiritualized or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at their most dense.
So why do I think it’s merely a great album? 04 is twelve tracks long, not nine. The remaining three are all short electronic snippets. It’s not the style I object to, as several of the other songs skillfully integrate similar techniques into the band’s sound. But these three disrupt things. I suppose they’re in there as a refresher, but if your appetite for this sort of music isn’t big enough to take the rest in one go, these won’t help. They’re pleasant enough, but “Hours” seems anti-climactic after the towering “Leave Me Alone”, and “Lude II” putters aimlessly for over three minutes. Olley has done better electronic work in his side project Twelve, and the inclusion of these three just seems like an unnecessary dilution. Even when I edit them out or hit the skip button there’s something unsatisfying about their inclusion.
The only nice thing about the way those three instrumentals stand out so starkly and unpleasantly against the rest of 04 is that it’s a result of the band’s new freedom. The vast majority of this album suggests that’s a good thing, and not only will fans be ecstatic (four solid albums in a row is nothing to sneeze at), songs like “Ready For You Now” suggest the faint hope that the rest of the world will start listening, finally.