A horrible hack

Former Monarchs

The Cost of Living

Year Released: 2014
Format: LP
Label: Mountains of Records
Reviewed by Rob Mair on Apr 24, 2014
Only four months in, 2014 has seen some truly solid albums released already, and while British and Irish rock acts continue to flourish (Lonely The Brave and Fatherson are already turning heads, while a number of pretenders are preparing their own gambits), it’s good to see some are still willing to take chances. And this is where Former Monarchs come in, thanks to their phenomenally dense and rewarding debut, ‘The Cost of Living’. Perhaps not as direct and accessible as their peers, instead Former Monarchs want you to invest in the long game, and have produced an album that rewards with repeated listens.

For the most part, ‘The Cost of Living’ feels somewhat distant, like viewing an ice-cold snowstorm somewhere on the horizon, yet the hushed calmness and picturesque beauty is punctuated by stabs of noise and verve. On the first few listens it washes over you, but by the time it has its claws in, there’s no escaping its charm.

The guitar textures are mathy but not obtuse or unwelcoming, while the drums largely have this cool feel about them, not unlike the sparse Scandinavian sound of Loney, Dear or Last Days of April, indeed, the percussive nature of ‘The Cost of Living’ is one of the first things that really sucked me in. Similarly the vocals have an icy, quiet detachment – in fact, on occasion, they are so hushed they’re barely a mumble – but it all adds to the charm of an album that slowly unfurls like a welcoming blanket on a winter’s day. The beauty of ‘The Cost of Living’ is not found in the detached headphone music, however. It’s in the moments that it all builds to. Recalling everything from the layered textures of American Football, the hip shaking groove of At The Drive-In or the noisy racket of Garrison, these explosions of energy work perfectly with the subdued calmness of the rest of the record.

It’s best seen on the chorus of ‘Origins’ or the clever pacing and structuring of ‘Buyer Beware’, but equally the more prolonged efforts of ‘Battlelines’ and ‘Clans’ show wonderful dexterity. It is these moments which make you sit up and draw you in, wanting you to discover the nuances which make ‘The Cost of Living’ such a rewarding listen.

Recommended record by Collective Zine!

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