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Two years prior to Hundred Reasons debut album 'Ideas Above Our Station' the Hampshire quintet came back for more with another offering of original harmonic/melodic rock. Hurried by Columbia Records, 'Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge' was released as soon as all the songs were done and the advertising/marketing campaign was minimal, making its release a quiet one, but still managing to shift a good amount of units. The band has clearly learned a fair bit thanks to the success of IAOS, and raised the bar with even more complex guitar work, group vocal harmonies and showcasing the abilities of the drummer Andy Bews and bassist Andy Gilmour. In theory the album and band would always struggle to match the success of their previous effort but they have tried not to stray too far away from what propelled them to success in the first place.
Album opener 'Savanna' isn't the strongest way to reintroduce themselves, with a generally unhappy - angry song, melody and lyric wise, repeating "Get on your knees for saviors" against the heavy lumbering guitar chords - its track 2, 'Stories With Unhappy Endings' is ironically where the album should have begun, still pretty angry but reminding of the storming guitar riffs and fantastic vocal ability fans fell in love with beforehand. The bass really stands out in this one, rumbling away through the verses and building up the chorus. 'What You Get' the albums 2nd single sounds poorly recorded after the sly little intro with an odd mix up with the 2 guitars rocking back and fourth in dodgey synchronization. However it brings relief to hear an upbeat track with a pleasant verse and definite sing along chorus "So what if you turned back, if talking's a waste of our time. You would leave us only the more upset, cause that's what you get". The albums first single 'The Great Test' is up next, at just under two minutes, its a very brief glimpse of what the band is capable of, perhaps just what is needed to entice people unfamiliar with their work, in a short period of time. However its pretty much a forgettable track in honesty.
"Sing this with me now, try to harmonize this. Sing this with me now, try to understand."
From the very beginning, this track had me nodding in agreement. 'Harmony' is exactly what Hundred Reasons are about and to go with the title, both lead and rhythm guitarist, lead and backing vocals, all harmonize together in an honest, quality song. Lead singer Colin Doran may not have the conventional voice, nor a large range, but the singing always seems to shine through. My personal favourite song acts as the halfway mark of the album in 'Lullaby'. An interesting drum beat comes on against the grain of some guitar feedback, followed by strong upbeat chords synced with an equally jolly, lead guitar riff that dances throughout the entire song. A nice little lyric is chanted a few times "I caught me a whisper, now dance in my hand" - I have no idea what the hell this means but I sang along gleefully despite a lack lustre chorus. The introduction of 'My Sympathy' is a bit annoying due to the repeated strike of a harsh guitar chord, but it somehow turns into a song raising in tempo (relevant as the lyrics mention "don't slow down"), swinging side to side, ballad that is best described as a slow motion period of the album. Its not a bad thing, if anything it just makes it easier to grasp the lyrics and sing away.
Songs gain speed instantly in '80mph', another 2 minute practice session sounding song. The lyrics dont offer much but the guitarists and drummer can show off a little bit, with skill and fluctuating tempos. Similar to IAOS's 'Falter' - 'Still Be Here' is a stand out song, with a ballad-esque rhythm and pace. It is also the most revealing song in terms of lyrics, mentioning Doran's thoughts and memories of his father in quaint fashion "When birthdays came around, I waited for you to be there.. just for once." even the chorus, as content as it may sound, has some really scarring lyrics. Again in familiar circumstances, guitarists Paul Townsend and Larry Hibbitt team up to take on 'Pop' (as Townsend did for IAOS's 'Silver') sticking to what they know - harmonizing. Most of the songs structure is very similar to 'Silver' containing the stop-start rhythm palm muting and melodic riff, all out chorus and even being the tenth track on the list. More thought provoking lyrics show up in 'Truth With Elegance' - one of the heaviest songs - despite what sounds like a shampoo commercial "The fluorescence you wash from you hair, so the cruelty could cling to your pillow".
If any more comparisons can be made from the bands first two albums its in their closers, much like the previous effort 'Avalanche' - 'Makeshift' provides the acoustic and vocal only track (occasionally an organ in the background). Without a doubt one of the 'loveliest' songs I've heard in a while despite only having 2 sentences to sing, the poignent words are first sung with disdain then secondly with vigor, Hibbit providing his ever faithful backing vocals towards the end. A truly heartbreaking song to save for last on what is an all to familiar, yet still absolutely spectacular album. Somehow Hundred reasons would be let go by Columbia Records after this effort and shamefully remain one of the most underrated British bands in recent years.
"Hard to mould the sense, choose to walk your own mile. Hard to mould the sense.. and choose to walk your own."
"Its nice that you noticed what I wore my clothes for.. and you make me happy as its what you're best at.. nurture more."
Simply writing them down doesn't do them justice.
The start of this year has already seen 7 or 8 albums released that I have really taken too. The one I was looking forward to the most had to be this one, Hundred Reason. The follow up to 2002’s debut album, “Ideas Above Our Station” this was going to be the deciding album that would make or break the band. From humble beginnings of playing their first gig at a birthday party in Kingston in 2000 they have come along way. This second album, “Shatterproof Is Not a Challenge” had a lot to live up to but I think they’ve actually gone one better than the last album. Second album syndrome always seems to effect bands like Hundred Reasons but they’ve neatly sidestepped the curse. Although the band are probably best described as being a punk-rock band, with comparisons often drawn to At The Drive In. Although yet to really make an impact in the singles charts, highest entry being 15. Hundred Reasons have built up a large loyal fan base over the last few years. The albums opening track, “Savanna” sets the pace of the album early. The guitar brings it in playing a couple of chords before the drums, vocals and bass come in within seconds. From the very start the track has a consistent beat that really helps it to develop. The guitars compliment the drums well and in places aren’t set to playing the same chords over and over but rather seem to explore different possibilities within the track. And finally the vocals are the real surprise from the track, mixing heavier vocals with more relaxed vocals it really helps the song to kick the album off. The second track keeps the same pace as the opener. “Stories With Unhappy Endings” was one of the songs that really grew on me quickest and has become one of my favourites on
the album. The guitars again kick it off with the drums coming in fits and spurts for the introduction. When it eventually evens out the drums again slot into the backbone of the song, allowing the guitars to really give the song a bit of edge. The vocals are again superb and really compliment a well written song with great lyrics. Even though the song does have slower segments it doesn’t seem to have any real effect on the overall sound of the track. We then come to the most recent single to be lifted from the album, “What You Get”. The pace slows a little as a gentle guitar intro bring the track in with samples mixed into it. The intro soon changes key and with the introduction of the drums and finally the vocals the song gets going. The pace has calmed a little but not much as this can be described as one of the mellower tracks on the album. The guitars really play the biggest part in the track taking the lead and really complimenting the vocals well. Like all the tracks on the album the lyrics are pretty simple but very good. The second shortest track on the album and just under 2 minutes is “The Great Test”. The track starts with a count in tapping of drumsticks before the guitars come in and the vocals pretty soon after. It really picks the pace up again after the slightly mellower last track. The guitars again really take the lead with the drums providing a good beat but on the whole taking a back seat. It sounds very similar to a couple of tracks on the debut album, which meant it was another of the first tracks I really took to. Quite possibly my favourite track on the album is “Harmony”, it’s a lot mellower than a lot of the tracks but still pretty fast. The vocals start the song off with a repetitive guitar note in the background before it really takes off with the introduction o
f the drums. It starts to pick up more the further into the song you go until the chorus where the pace from the opening tracks returns. The drums have taken over again as the real lead of the song with the guitars taking more of a backseat in terms of moving the song along. The vocals are superb and his voice really suits this style of song. “Lullaby” is another slower track starting with a drawn out guitar note before the drums join in with a fairly calming guitar melody. The vocals come in and take the song to another level as it drifts along peacefully almost completely different to anything else on The guitars really play the main part in this track accompanying the vocals well. While the drums provide the back bone to the track it’s the guitars that really make it for me. Combine with that well written lyrics and it’s a real recipe for a decent track. A possibility for another single has to be “My Sympathy”. It kicks off again with the guitars providing a slow count in before the drums come in and start the lead into the verse. The pace is a little quicker than the last few tracks. When the vocals comes in it slows down a touch for the verse and this really suit’s the vocals. The drums again take a bit of a back seat while the guitars really lead the song on and sound fantastic during the slower sections. Very reminiscent of “Falter” from the first album and as that’s quite possibly one of the best Hundred Reasons tracks it cant possibly be a bad thing. Then its onto the shortest track on the album, although only marginally shorter than the 4th track. “80MPH” is really where the pace returns to the album. It starts pretty upbeat with the guitars really leading it into the intro and a quite drumbeat in the background. The vocals come in fairly shortly afterwards
and really fit into line long side the guitars, which are really moving the track along. The return of the faster songs certainly improves the album as another mellow track could have sent the overall feel in the wrong direction. A slower start that had it been a track earlier could have meant “Still Be Here” would have been that mellow track too far. Instead it sounds amazing and is by far my favourite track on the album. From the opening guitar chords you can tell this track is going to be something special. The drums and vocals come in simultaneously and the track really takes shape instantly. The lyrics are superb and really set your mind racing as, for me anyway, it’s a track that really sets your mind off thinking about things. As good as the last track is the album really needs a lift again and “Pop” really provides that getting the faster guitars back into it again. It kicks off with the guitars opening before being joined reasonably quickly by the drums to form the introduction. When the vocals come in the track changes slightly but the pace from the earlier tracks has returned again. The guitars are much faster and louder than they have been and this helps to really keep the song moving and not stagnating. The drums although not as predominant as they are in some tracks haven’t taken the back seat either and make a very useful contribution. With the vocals sounding very similar to those earlier tracks this is a superb track. With only 2 tracks to go, “Truth With Elegance” really keeps the album moving again. A fast, solo guitar brings it in again before the drums join in and the tempo switches slightly. However its when the vocals come in that you can really tell this is going to be a good track. The drums take a more forward role than in the last track, helping to keep it going and giving
the guitars an opportunity to wander off again. The vocals sound superb and really do justice to some very well written lyrics. Although it’s the longest track on the album it certainly doesn’t suffer for it, sounding superb throughout. The final track is “Makeshift” another mellower start but a good way to finish the album off. It starts off with an acoustic guitar playing the short introduction before it stops and the vocals come in. After a short while with just the vocals and guitar it changes a little more getting a little faster the further into the verse it goes. The acoustic guitar sounds really good and this is another of those tracks where the vocals and guitar work well together giving the track a real atmosphere. Although perhaps the slower pace wasn’t the best way to go I think it really rounds the album off well. Of course it helps that it is totally different to anything else on the album. So has “Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge” lived up to my expectations. Well yes it has, in fact its actually gone a stage further than I ever expected from them. “Ideas” really set out the bands stall but “Shatterproof” takes the band onto a new level, one which hopefully they will grow from. Although maybe a few too many mellow tracks I really feel the album works well. If you get the chance to see the band make sure you take it, if you get the chance to buy this album or you think it sounds like your kind of thing then I recommend you buy it. Available from amazon.co.uk for £8.99.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Stories With Unhappy Endings
3 What You Get
4 The Great Test
7 My Sympathy
8 80 m.p.h.
9 Still Be Here
11 Truth With Elegance