There were and have been positives to take from the past 12 to 24 months however. Yes, despite lockdowns, millions being put on furlough schemes (Not going to lie, I enjoyed 3 months off paid) and ok, the Coronavirus itself, there has been plenty to keep us going, especially in the form of new music, and that brings us to today's band.
Every year, I tend to personally discover at least one new band that really catches my ear, and for 2020 I have to give the credit to my good friend and gig partner James Oakley, for introducing me to IST IST. The Manchester-based quartet, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Adam Houghton, bassist Andy Keating, guitarist/keyboardist Mat Peters and drummer Joel Kay, had released their debut album “Architecture” and it properly excited this reviewer. With a synth layered dose of lively yet, vocally deep, indie-rock based post-punk, they captured the sounds of JOY DIVISION, EDITORS and WHITE LIES and I was hooked. In the year that's passed, having seen them perform in the Manchester Academy while socially distancing, and seeing them in the Louisiana, Bristol, in some tiny upstairs pub room, everything BUT socially distancing, it’s fair to say I am beyond excited for their sophomore album, “The Art Of Lying”...let’s check it out.
The album kicks off with “Listening Through The Walls” and on face value I’m all for the creepy, psychological chiller vibe the title insinuates. Just imagining some nutcase living in your crawl space bopping along to your new Ist Ist album before he kills you in your sleep. Lovely. It’s actually quite a sullen, slow start with a somewhat deflated tone. The percussion sounds like it’s emotionally given up and there’s a real feeling of sorrow to these synths. It makes for an interesting opening track in sense of timbre, as we lead into “Fat Cats Drown In Milk”, and this is more like it.
The new-wave / post-punk, bass led simplicity of this brand of dark indie-rock, is the sound we’ve come used to and it’s a sound the band excel at. The synths here are restrained to no more than a subtle layering, adding character, and aside from this the tempo changes and musical surges are kept almost reined in, teasing the listener in ways, and it works because you want to hear the lads unleash.
Next up we get the Chuckle Brothers on a bad case of paranoia courtesy of “Watching You Watching Me”...or...NEIL DIAMOND when he was simply stalking Caroline prior to touching her. I jest. The track is a pleasantly bouncy effort which channels the likes of THE CURE in some aspects, as there’s a soft, flowing synth melody countering the pacey cymbal-led percussion and it somehow manages to sound equally upbeat yet downtrodden. Those crunchy bass chords in the bridge too just give this an extra layer of swagger and it’s really enjoyable.
The first album gave us reason to expect bops aplenty and we’ve got some more here to sift through. “The Waves” retains their simplistic lyrical approach, but the guitar work takes the forefront here and chorus hook is just something else. The tempo here ebbs and flows just like the tide and it acts as a metaphor in its own ways, for the waves may seem chaotic at times, noisy, disruptive, but there’s a calm beneath them, and it can be taken emotionally and mentally, positively and negatively in terms of your well-being. It’s quite a reflective track this. “Extreme Greed” returns to the more 80’s-inspired synth-rich new wave pop, while “It Stops When It Starts” harks back to those slightly darker, grittier post-punk days, and both styles work.
While there are slower, more morose offerings here like the ironically titled “Don’t Go Gentle”, we find a band here, not departing too far from their debut, more so fine tuning their sound and continuing to find their feet as songwriters. All of the aforementioned bands above in their own ways sum up the style and aesthetic of Ist Ist’s music and lyricism; the simple yet meaningful, the deep, dark, yet, hopeful aura of their sound is the appeal, and they are one of the UK’s brightest bands at this very moment in time. “The Art Of Lying” is a solid follow-up, and I’d be lying to you all if I didn’t tell you Ist Ist were worth checking out. Now go buy your own copy and stop listening through MY walls ya’ cheeky bastard!