Reading-based band A Genuine Freakshow is not a genuine freakshow. There are no superfluous third nipples to be found here (that I know of), no hairy babies and no gnomes or elephant men among their ranks. If anything, like putting a 5’10” Caucasian man in a cage at said freakshow, A Genuine Freakshow are disappointingly normal. That’s ok right? You don’t have to be disturbingly deformed or exceptional to have blazing qualities. As Longfellow said: “Men of genius are often dull and inert in society; as the blazing meteor, when it descends to earth, is only a stone.”Exceptional musical talent is not always obvious. You may have to dig a little deeper to find the gold. But A Genuine Freakshow make everything so infuriatingly, tantalisingly, teasingly difficult. It’s like finding gold scattered on the earth’s surface, opening up a mine to look deeper, and finding only fools gold.

The opening track ‘We Are the Undercurrents’ is the best moment on the album. With twinkling pianos, and melancholic, delicately picked guitar parts it builds up like a Mercury Rev track, to breakdown into something off Radiohead’s In Rainbows. But it ends with a stupid little segment that is totally at odds with the rest of the song, as if they couldn’t be bothered to think about how to end the song. It’s this lack of thought, and a tendency to lapse into laziness, that mars an otherwise impressive debut.

Elsewhere, as on ‘I Can Feel His Heartbeats’ this laziness manifests itself in an inclination to lapse into anthemic blandness ala The Feeling (a band I detest with a fucking passion) and Scouting For Girls. In complete contrast to ‘We Are The Undercurrents’, ‘I Can Feel His Hearbeats’ ends with a pretty little hopscotch played out with horns and glockenspiel that is the best part of the whole thing. Yes, A Genuine Freakshow has the ability to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, and defeat from the jaws of victory.

‘Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness’  is an annoyingly vacuous duet saved by a rapturous outro of ascending brass and string instruments. At its best, ‘Oftentimes’ combines post-rock and big melodies to stunning effect, at its worst it sounds like a cynical play for arena-sized popularity. There is a very fine line between the two, and A Genuine Freakshow’s touch is not deft enough to stay on the correct side of that line.

And just when you think it has nothing more to offer, Oftentimes presents another wonderful slow build moment with ‘You Cut Me Out’.

The problems with ‘Oftentimes’ are manifold. The producer has applied a thick paint brush to the album’s canvas making for a sound that is rounded and bland. The instruments blend into each other, when here the horns volume should be pushed up and there the vocals. The whole thing is frequently as saccharine as a My Little Pony lollypop. But amidst this dull inertness, a blazing meteor streaks across the album’s sky making you think twice, that this disappointingly normal mother fucker might be a genius after all…

Release Date 01/11/2010 (Peartree)

Chris Gilliver

I started out writing for the Manchester Evening News as a freelance journalist back in 2008. The idea that I would be given free access to music and gigs seemed somehow miraculous to me, and I proceeded to take full advantage of the situation. When the M.E.N. decided to constrict its coverage to only the very biggest bands, Simon Poole approached me with a plan to make sure that all the very talented musicians of this world that pass through and/or live in Manchester would not go unnoticed. As the New Releases editor here at Silent Radio Towers, it remains my proud duty to cast a critical eye over the music and reviews that come my way in a manner that is both supportive and fair. Above all, I strive to write as entertainingly possible. Favourite musicians include the Pixies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mercury Rev, Os Mutantes, The Knife, Beach House etc etc. I'm a firm believer that all genres (except nu-metal) contain music of great quality...