A Plastic Rose have been teasing us for a few years now, with a clutch of excellent EPs, numerous hooligan live outings and a rather spiffing mini-album more than whetting our appetites for a proper full-length release. Rather than rushing out an album, though, the four-piece have wisely bided their time, building momentum and amassing a treasure trove of material which has now condensed into this 11-track debut. And what a record it is.
Camera.Shutter.Life. bursts into life with an incongruous splash of strings, wrong-footing the listener just long enough for the tumultuous drums and squalling guitars of ‘Build From The Ground Up’ to kick in. It’s a clever and dramatic opening, marrying punk snarl with classical pomp like prime Biffy Clyro, the quartet’s trademark full-tilt vocals gelling perfectly with the music’s focussed aggression before swooping into a killer group chorus. You barely have time to draw breath before turbo-charged early classic ‘All You Know And Love Will Die’ makes a thoroughly welcome appearance. It’s a fantastic track, with urgent verses carried along on surging second-wave emo guitar lines and breathless vocals, giving way to a dynamic, melodic refrain.
Indeed, there are several familiar tunes here, the band justifiably cherry-picking the strongest cuts from their back catalogue, such as the addictive previous single ‘Kids Don’t Behave Like This’ and the glorious, difficult-to-categorise ‘Skin’, replete with the legend “Why stay sober?” Why indeed? Most pleasingly, the album closes with the epic (if that term hasn’t become too devalued) ‘Sun’s A Shadow’, originally released on the excellent Photographs In Black And White EP. It’s a majestic slow-burner which brings to mind Appleseed Cast circa Mare Vitalis, gradually swelling from gently-picked guitar lines and woozy ambience into a triumphant, overwhelming crescendo.
The newer songs are top drawer too. ‘Foreign Soil’ is possibly their most extreme track to date, its heavy subject matter well suited to the background screams and pummelling instrumentation; single ‘Boy Racer’ surfs a lolloping bass line, high hats and guitar squeals to tremendous effect while ‘Fading Pictures’ gives an unexpected injection of Celtic folk sway. Dotted in amongst the more angst-filled numbers, ‘…And The Sea’, ‘Indian Sheets’ and ‘When The Morning Comes’ showcase the group’s mastery of dynamics, being stirring ballads which pull and coax their central melodic themes in myriad directions.
In what’s turning out to be a good year for Irish alternative rock releases, and indeed the alt-rock underground in general, A Plastic Rose have made a record with potential mass appeal that stands comparison with the efforts of any of their peers. A late contender for album of the year. Lee Gorman