So very rarely, a release comes along that you just can’t bring yourself to dissect in simplistic terms of positive and negative constituents, blacks and whites. It might be that it leans on recognisable influences. It might be that it meanders a little on occasions, risking attention detachment. Perhaps it’s not the most startlingly original collection heard in the last few weeks – but something more is driving it.
It’s a set of blood and bones, rattling hearts and wheezing chests. It’s tied together by sinew, awash with sweat. It’s more alive than a set of compressed audio files has any right to be. You don’t want to reduce it to signifiers and sound-alikes. You just want to encourage its growth, will it to reach more listeners. You want to see its passion reach the highest peaks.
These are the emotions, the visions and ambitions, that Ought’s ‘More Than Any Other Day’ brings out in a man whose daily routine forever encompasses exposure to new artists purveying what they feel are fresh sounds to an audience of, so we’re told by tumbling sales figures and damning Amazon reviews, diminishing enthusiasm. It’s a record that really connects with some deeper appreciation of what is, ostensibly and logistically, rock music: drums and bass, keys and guitar, vocals and spit. Bypass the head, shoot for the heart, because that’s where these eight songs are birthed, more so than any comparable precursors.
Seeing as it’s providing no public service whatsoever to skimp on at least cursory comparison details here, parallels between this Montréal-based (though none of them are actually Canadian) foursome’s debut album – released on Constellation and recorded, inevitably, at the city’s Hotel2Tango studio – and a few celebrated collectives do indeed present themselves. Television and Talking Heads are names that’ll spring to the minds of the so inclined, but to others there will be detectable traces of acts like Owls and Q And Not U, outfits whose intelligent designs looked to take indie-rock across new creative frontiers.
Never do Ought merely imitate, though – any influences are quite distinctly reshaped exclusively for the demands these four men place upon them. They mix up a singular accessibility evident on tracks like ‘The Weather Song’ (video below) – if it’d come out under The Strokes’ banner, it’d immediately be celebrated as the New Yorkers’ greatest-ever work – with more testing, yet simultaneously yielding to conditioned ears, pieces like the lurching percussion, scratchy strings and distressed yelps of opener ‘Pleasant Heart’, and the frenetic aggression of closer ‘Gemini’.
Politics play their lyrical part throughout – the band’s frontman Tim Beeler has a past decorated with dashes of protest poetry, and he’s unafraid to stick it to the Man when desire strikes. Much of the inspiration to found this outlet for collaborative art was initially stirred by 2012’s student protests in Quebec: “We won’t take it anymore,” hollers the hook of ‘The Weather Song’. But the most memorable characteristic of these words is the positivity they can possess – greatly infectious at a time where nonchalance is often considered cooler in pop than simply screaming what’s inside.
Beeler sings of what there is to believe in on ‘Habit’, of realising and embracing limitations and finding a collective means to celebrate them, while the title track is a pure and true explosion of optimism. “Everything is going to be okay,” we’re assured, as Beeler expresses how even the mundane moments of the everyday existence can be treasured. The song’s final minute comprises this album’s swollen soul reaching bursting point, a riot of inclusive rhetoric that signs off, sighs off, with an exhausted, “We’re all the f*cking same.” Look at the album cover: this is an all-are-welcome experience, not some standoffish dudes playing “just what appeals to them”.
It’s great to see these musicians picking up some significant press – positive coverage on Pitchfork (8.4, Best New Music) and some of said site’s peers precedes the band’s debut New York show, on May 3rd – as ‘More Than Any Other Day’ could otherwise so easily become one of those brilliantly under-appreciated albums that exists in some sort of nether-realm of critical acclaim, bound to an underground when it should be set free to soar. It deserves to find as many admirers as this worldwide web of ours can carry to its makers’ cause. It deserves something more.
Because, frankly, this is music that’s made to make a difference, or else turn in ever-decreasing circles until it consumes itself. It has too much fire to not either spread or self-combust entirely. Passion is a puzzling thing, expressed in myriad manners. But it can never be fabricated, and Ought’s heated brand of it is amongst the most bracing sounds anyone can encounter in 2014.
Words: Mike Diver
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