I was hardly frothing with enthusiasm over single release ‘Kicking and Screaming’ back in February, which I reckoned qualified as ‘buoyant but bland indie rock’ which was ‘ultimately forgettable’. But since their debut album’s landed on my doormat, I should probably give it a fair hearing.
They come racing out of the trap coming on like The Dead Kennedys on opener ‘The Cut of Your Jib’ and I’m excited. It then slips into the kind of melodic punk territory broken by The Undertones on ‘Fall to Pieces’, and it’s immediately followed by the uptempo indie rock of ‘In the City’. It makes for a pretty solid start.
‘Kicking and Screaming’ works better in context of the album, but it’s around this point that the band’s musical eclecticism starts to sound like a lack of direction, and it’s compounded by the jaunty indie-folk knees-up of the other previous single cut ‘Charlies Bonkers’ with its singalong backing vocals, jubilant keyboards and flamboyant guitar solo. There’s really no need for any of it, and even less need for the Reef-esque wankery of ‘Fabio’s Overture’: it deeply undermines the songwriting savvy of the Springsteen-meets-Squeeze anthem ‘You Don’t Bother Me’ and the punky but melodic drive of ‘You’re So Cool’ and full-throttle closer ‘London’.
And herein lies the rub: there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with, or bad, about NDF’s brand of accessible indie rock – it’s just that it’s the sound of so many middling bands on the pub circuit given some ok production. No doubt some people will get really excited about them, but mass appreciation is no measure of artistic merit.