Bauer - 'Sleeping Giant' Review

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rating: 4

Reviewing a band's debut album is difficult. It may be fantastic because it is the result of years of hard work or it may be underwhelming but show the roots of what the band could become in the future. Either way it is often hard to fully grasp where a band is coming from on the back of one full length release. Bauer make it easy. Having been around for the best part of a decade as a support act, Greg Matthews, Neil Treppas, Lee Bradbury and Michael Reed have produced a debut that is so assured it leaves you in no doubt as to what this band are about. There is a Dutch band that shares the same name but from the first word there can be no confusion. This Bauer are obviously a Manchester band. They have the lifeblood of the city's musical heritage running through every moment of their debut record. Their sound comfortably fits in alongside the greats of Manchester's musical history where their songs, in quality if not recognition, hark back to 90's bands like James. 'Barrel One' begins the album with an unexpected electronic barb that suggests a very different album and makes the introduction of Greg Matthew's sweet and gentle voice unexpected. Sounding like Dan Gillespie from The Feeling or Paul Heaton, he comfortably sets the tone for an enthusiastic but mid tempo opener. For the majority of rest of the album Bauer follow the style of 'Barrel One' in delivering easy to listen to and thoroughly enjoyable guitar pop. 'Connected' bounces along with an ultra-catchy chorus as does 'Shotgun.' 'Don't You Move' contains some beautiful instrumentation but is the first song to fail to leave anything behind in the memory after the final notes. 'Get It Right' sounds like 2000's indie pop, think Keane or The Fray. It is rougher in tone that the rest of the album but, like a growling puppy, isn't nearly as stern as it thinks it is. Sounding like another band from the early 2000's, from the guitar sound to the vocal 'Sky Turned Black' could easily be a Feeder song. It is also the third song in a row to feature a simple two or three note guitar part in the intro. As standalone singles it is unlikely this would have been noticed but that many in a row on an album really starts to show the formulaic nature of these songs. 'Feels like Heaven' is an excellent cover of the new wave band Factory Fiction's track. It is a great showcase for the sparse but well used synth across the album. Such a well-chosen cover is proof that Bauer are especially comfortable with their sound. Resembling The Lightning Seeds, 'Starting Again' is an odd song in that it feels so familiar, as if it may have been released years ago. After a muggy middle section the song is a return to the huge choruses from the early part of the record. 'Never Look Back' initially marks itself out as a brooding closer to the album but soon relents into yet another anthemic chorus. The electronic elements of 'Sleeping Giant' are dropped in and used well but the record would be just as good without as Bauer are a 90's influenced guitar band in every sense. Melodic choruses soar across the whole album with assuredness and skill but this perhaps is the album's weak point as well as its greatest strength. Clearly the band know pop hooks like the back of their hand and it makes for some excellent potential singles, but after twelve tracks the repetition of the structure begins to feel predictable and I suffered from anthem fatigue. An acoustic ballad every now and again would have been very welcome. Bauer are like a band out of time. Had this album been released 15 years ago it may have made a much bigger impression than it could hope to today. If undeniably catchy guitar pop is your thing (isn't that everyone?) then this is certainly an album worth hearing.
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I have one golden rule: There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Any song or film that makes you feel good doesn't need justifying.