I want to like Tripwires. Every interview I’ve read with them makes them sound like people I’d get along with. They’ve being making music together since meeting at school, they’ve called their debut album Spacehopper, they’re self-deprecating and they go to each other’s nan’s houses for tea and cake.
But despite being a big fan of shoegazing/post-punk, I can’t quite get on board with Tripwires’ particular brand of alternative rock. There’s plenty of enthusiasm in Spacehopper, but something is missing.
The album starts strong with the titular track, its atmospheric instrumental intro giving a nod to ambient legends Mogwai and its prominent drums building to an edgier crescendo. Initially understated, it then makes you take notice. However, there is a recurrent theme: Rhys Edwards’ voice is full of effort, but is inconsistent in its quality. Rather than the purposefully de-tuned melodies of former Yuck frontman Daniel Blumberg, Edwards’ vocal seems unavoidably patchy at points.
Second track Plasticine is a guitar effect-laden pop-rock number that feels like a Feeder b-side. It then leads on to fairly bland ballad A Feedback Loop of Laughter. Shimmer by contrast is a strong, straight-up indie track which is an obvious contender for a single.
A few of the tracks appear to blur into each other, with Love Me Sinister, Paint and Under a Gelatine Moon not really standing out. Even Catherine, I Feel Sick, which has been lauded by fans, is an ordinary love song without any real indentifying features.
Wisdom Teeth steps into prog territory, which is a welcome change of pace, while Tin Foil Skin, which clocks in at 7:50, makes attempts at a rock epic. It’s not a bad attempt, but it is about two minutes too long. Tying up the album’s loose ends, Slo Mo is a beseeching, understated track with a crowd-friendly melody in place of a lyric chorus.
Overall, Spacehopper sounds a bit 1998. That’s not an inherently bad thing, as that was the year of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs. But it’s an unfortunate thing to take away from a debut album in 2013.
While there’s clearly a lot of passion in the band, Spacehopper sounds more generic indie along the lines of Ash than the stuff of shoegazing denizens My Bloody Valentine. If you like your music uncomplicated, guitar-based and in a 4/4 rhythm, you’ll probably find a lot to like about Tripwires. If you’re looking for something a bit more distinctive, maybe look elsewhere.