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About The Sunshine Underground
The eureka moment in the making of The Sunshine Underground's second album Nobody's Coming To Save You arrived when the band ensconced themselves in a cottage in the Scottish countryside in a location that was beyond remote. Given the obvious benefits of being in such an isolated spot, the four decided to crank the distortion pedals. In other words, it was time for The Sunshine Underground - singer/guitarist Craig Wellington, guitarist Stuart Jones, bassist Daley Smith and drummer Matthew Gwilt - to get heavy.
"We wanted to make more of a guitar record and introduce bigger riffs," says Wellington. "It's really intense and immediate."
With their nearest neighbours miles away in Dumfries, the quartet were free to send their new riffs echoing out over the landscape. "The remoteness of the house worked in our favour really," says Jones. "It was a seven mile walk to the local pub."
The resulting album - boasting pummelling drums, grinding guitars, breath-sucking bass and rasping synths, all topped with Wellington's sky-scraping vocals - is the sound of The Sunshine Underground enhanced. The more familiar strains of the Leeds-based group's formative influences such as Talking Heads and Metal Box-era PiL are still evident in the infectious, looping grooves, though the overall effect is more muscular, while still retaining TSU's signature soaring choruses.
The follow-up to their debut Raise The Alarm was completed in a tight four week session at Chairworks Studio in West Yorkshire and saw the band take more of a front seat production role, co-helming the sessions with Barny (Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian). "We had a complete idea of how we wanted the songs to sound," says Wellington. "A lot of bands are made to rush their second album. But we knew we wanted to make a different-sounding record and so we gave ourselves the time to really evolve as a band."
From full-tilt opener Coming To Save You through the spiralling Spell It Out and the mile-high hooks of We've Always Been Your Friends, it's clear that with this second offering, The Sunshine Underground have taken their music to the next level. Nevertheless, fans of the quartet's more beat-driven songs will find much to love in A Warning Sign and In Your Arms, not to mention the urgent, almost drum'n'bass rhythms of Change Your Mind.
Elsewhere Nobody's Coming To Save You features the most atmospheric music that The Sunshine Underground have yet produced - specifically the evocative, small town frustrations spotlit in Any Minute Now and the aching resignation of ambitious closer The Messiah. These are songs populated by souls weighed down with longing and anticipation; their futures presided over by scheming, two-faced politicians. It questions whether everything is truly right with our world - a question which is being asked by all of us.
"I've always written quite dark lyrics," Wellington says. "As a title Nobody's Coming To Save You could be religious or it could be political. But it just summed up the album really. I think it's quite apt for now...where we are right now politically." The end-of-days visions of One By One, meanwhile, were inspired by the writings of Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood. "I got a couple of his books and he writes these really scary sort of ghost stories," the singer adds. "It is a bit of a we're-all-doomed song."
That's not to say that The Sunshine Underground's new music isn't as stirring as it is thought-provoking. Road-testing some of these songs during their 2008 tour with Happy Mondays, tracks such as Spell It Out and In Your Arms were received with the same level of audience fervour that has greeted the group's live performances since their earliest days. If any one aspect characterised the extensive touring that followed the release of Raise The Alarm, it was the overwhelming responses of the ever-growing audiences that took the band from packed clubs to sold-out theatres, via a memorable Glastonbury Other Stage appearance and unforgettable T In The Park tent headliner in 2007.
The four first banded together in their schooldays, relocating from Telford and Shrewsbury to follow Gwilt to Leeds where he was moving to study. "It was gonna split the band up if he went and we didn't," Jones points out. "So we all followed him up there and then he decided all he wanted to do was the band anyway! But we never really looked back. The city's been good to us." To the extent, it turns out, that chants of "Yorkshire! Yorkshire!" can be often be heard at The Sunshine Underground's northern gigs. "We haven't got the heart to tell them," the guitarist points out with a smile.
Doubtless the music contained within Nobody's Coming To Save You will be received with the same wide-eyed enthusiasm. "We wanted to make sure that our second album was a step-up from the first one," says Wellington. "We hope people will love it."
That much is almost a given. Nobody's Coming To Save You finds The Sunshine Underground on dizzyingly impressive form and will likely provide one of the key soundtracks to 2010.