If there’s a band in the British alternative music scene right now that has had an impressive growing curve in the last couple of years, that band has to be Sorry.
In the good number of times I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the North London quartet live, over the past two years or so, that growth has already been more than evident; in how precisely honed their sound has become, in how their stage presence has gained in confidence and incisiveness, and in how their ability to create and ride a very specific kind of mood has reached, frankly, uncanny proportion. There has been, however, an extent to which this growth was only partially mirrored in the studio releases from the band up to this point – competent takes on live favourites that showed a great degree of devotion but lacked something of the magic that their live counterparts possessed. I am very glad to find that their debut album, 925, out in late March, has freed itself from the last remaining constraints, and is finally a perfect representation of the bubble of mood, both dreamy and obsessive, but most than anything so extremely personal to this band, that Sorry’s lives have always evoked. Before anything else, then, it is almost an obligation to say that one of the pleasures of this record is the surgically precise, very effective production, which finally does complete justice to the sound this band is capable of.
Defining that sound, itself, proves pleasantly problematic. Sorry belong in a bubble of Londoner alternative music that defies genre because it is quite possibly creates a new genre, or several. “Indie rock” is an absolutely insufficient description for an album that incorporates suggestions from grunge, pop, industrial rock, a good amount of jazz (see the charmingly temperamental saxophone sections surfacing here and there, but also a direct quote of ‘What A Wonderful World’ in melancholic ballad ‘As The Sun Sets‘), a hint of country in moody ballad ‘Heather,’ and something unique to this band that makes any given track immediately recognisable as theirs. In a sense, Sorry write songs for the apocalypse – a slow, contemplative devastation that is perhaps not entirely inevitable and leaves room for a good deal of defiance. Their sound is sulky, sultry, subtly disquieting, and beautifully rounded.
Asha Lorenz’ vocals have a dreamy quality and a cutting edge at the same time, and are incisive both on their own and when blending with a male counterpart; ‘Perfect‘ is perhaps the track where the interplay between voices is used most strikingly. There are obsessive bass lines and a couple earworm-worthy riffs (see under ‘Starstruck,’ or single ‘Right Round the Clock,’ a perfectly high-power opener for a somewhat meditative album). There is a clever use of distortion – measured, used with parsimony only where it’s going to hit the hardest – ‘Ode To Boy‘ is probably the most effective example of this, but another notable instance is ‘In Unison,’ where it is used to evoke a hazy yet unsettled feeling in a song that is all about dreaming. Anyone who, like me, has been a frequent attendee at previous Sorry gigs, will enjoy polished takes on great live songs like ‘Lies,’ a very apt closer for an album that starts and ends with a bang.
925 also possesses a refreshingly frank sensuality that runs through several tracks like a red thread. Go to ‘Snakes‘ for an earnest portrayal of conflicting feelings we’ve all felt ourselves at some point, and to ‘Wolf‘ for something darker and more visceral, but no less sincere. ‘Rosie,’ on the other hand, is earnest in a different way – calling it a grudge song would be entirely unfair, but the final section, in sound and lyrics alike, feels rather liberating. ‘More‘ is faithful to its title in claiming “I want more” with blunt repetitiveness, but also warns: “Don’t give me too much, just give me enough;” a similar philosophy may be traced in the way that the songwriting measures different elements and blends them together, pushing its luck not too much, but just enough. The album has a slight oppressiveness to it in the way that it dips into very private parts of our subconscious, both through the sharpness of its lyrics and the immersiveness of its sound.
That sound, overall, is 925‘s greatest success. Sorry have accomplished the far-from-easy feat of putting together a record that makes most sense when listened to top to bottom, as a whole, and that, at the same time, sounds like Sorry and nothing else really. Having such a clear, distinct voice in a young band is always a pleasure; having such an accomplished, confident work in a debut album is something rare and worth treasuring. 925 has at last recreated that dark, hazy bubble of mood that is typical of Sorry gigs. It is a bubble absolutely worth entering.
925 is out Friday 27th March via Domino. An exclusive limited edition of the LP is available via Domino Mart including a 7″ single of the band’s debut release, ‘Drag King’ / ‘Prickz’ – order here.