Various Cruelties – Various Cruelties LP
The group from Leeds only formed just over a year ago, but have been busy bees in that time, supporting the Vaccines and Mumford and Sons, all the time garnering a steadily building reputation for their self-declared “shabby Motown pop”. They’ve been mentioned in the same revered breath as the Arctic Monkeys and it seems the potential is definitely there; now’s the chance for the end product to match up.
Everything on here suggests that Various Cruelties could be massive; album opener ‘Chemicals’ sets the tone: easily digestible lyrical hook? (“if it’s meant to be, the universe is gonna throw her back to me”) Check. Vaccines-esque, guitar sound? Check. ‘Big’ Chorus? Check. They even throw in some heavy synths in the middle for extra dramatic effect.
Okay, so that is certainly a simplistic evaluation, but herein lays both the talent and the issue with Various Cruelties. There are some fantastic songs, but there’s the nagging feeling of deja-vu about their sound. ‘If it Wasn’t for You’ is a ballad with Winehouse-esque swing, ‘Cold As You’ begins with the first couple of bars from the Cure’s ‘Close to Me’, before making way for a jangly-pop number with Vaccines-ey levels of catchiness.
But here we go again, everything has to be ‘this-esque’, or ‘kind of like something else’ – it’s as if the group wrote a list of their favourite bands with the aim of imitation. Whilst it can be okay to reference your influences in moderation, eventually, people get bored of hearing the same thing over and over, eventually, people get bored of hearing the same thing over and over, eventually, people get bored of hea… you get my point.
If you can ignore the lyrical clichés (“set the night on fire…” anyone?), ‘Neon Truth’ is probably the best track on here, a slice of blustery pop brilliance where the band finally appear to be carving out their own identity and, in Liam O’Donnel, they have a singer who could sing the lottery numbers and have you believe it’s a yearning, heartfelt ballad. Yes, Various Cruelties could well be massive – whether they deserve to be so is another matter.
Words by Lewis Parker.