Album Review: Basement - 'Promise Everything'

21 January 2016 | 10:30 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Another day, another comeback record.

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If this reviewer had to pick two words in the English language that could evoke feelings of disinterest, jadedness and unparalleled levels of ‘ahhh really?’ from music fans, they would be ‘indefinite hiatus’. It’s a trope that’s all too common in today’s musical climate and has bands like Alexisonfire, Refused and At The Drive In pulling the pin on their musical endeavours, rocking farewell tours and proclaiming loudly that they’re ‘FUCKING DEAD’, only to come out swinging a few years later with a shitty hashtag and a shiny, culturally-relevant record.

And in terms of derailing their own hype-train, British five-piece Basement certainly aren't guilt free. The band dropped the dreaded ‘h word’ in late 2012, shortly after the release of their eagerly anticipated second full-length album, ‘Colourmeinkindness’ – a record which hinted at darker and heavier potential for their moody, alternative rock sound, along with being very well-received by critics and fans alike. They even had a ‘This Is Goodbye’ tour. And in a mind-freak worthy of Criss Angel theme music, guess what – it wasn't. Reuniting only two years later, in 2014, with some shady tweets and oblique social media posts, the band quickly churned out the teaser ‘Further Sky EP’ and got back to touring. Which brings us to now, and the upcoming release of the group’s third album, ‘Promise Everything’, and at this point you’re probably asking yourself either one of these two questions: 1) ‘Is it any good?’, and 2) ‘Should I give a shit?’ Well, the answer friend, is a resounding ‘Yeah, I guess’ on both counts.

The good news is that Basement stick to what they do best, which is writing alternative rock bangers, and ‘Promise Everything’ is chock full of them. Tracks like ‘Lose Your Grip’ and the title track retain the driving, aggressive riffs of Basement’s past that made hits like ‘Spoiled’ so captivating, with vocalist Andrew Fisher’s soft croon juxtaposed against occasional bursts of gruff, emotional delivery. Stand-outs like ‘For You The Moon’ and lead single ‘Aquasun’ showcase the band’s true melodic potential – digging deep into a treasure trove of prime 90’s grunge acts like Far or Hum, and blending them with the modern rock of successful groups like Jimmy Eat World and Incubus.

The bad news is that the production from Sam Pura (who also produced ‘Colourmeinkindness’) has essentially stripped Basement of any discernible bite or rough edges. The vocals are clean and smooth, but instrumentally, everything feels flat and neutered, to a point that the riffs and drums are still crunchy and punchy, but just not enough to have a visceral connection with the listener. There’s also some sonic experimentation to be found on ‘Promise Everything’, and not all of it hits the mark. ‘Submission’ sounds like a half finished, Weezer off cut, and slow burners like ‘Oversized’ and record closer ‘Halo’ fail to capture the magic that ‘Covet’ delivered last time round, coming off as forgettable and lacklustre.

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On one hand, this reviewer feels that ‘Promise Everything’ pretty much accomplishes what it sets out to do: fulfil the promise of a Basement comeback record. The band sound almost identical to their 2012 self, with no evident loss of the ability for quality song writing. Yet on the other hand, everything about ‘Promise Everything’ strikes us as safe, uneven and formulaic. And, sure, there’s certainly nothing wrong with sticking to a formula in rock music, just look at Foo Fighters or AC/DC for living, breathing proof. But for Basement, all their contemporaries continued their musical exploration without a hiatus as distraction. Title Fight found love for shoegaze and noise records, Balance & Composure and Superheaven went gung-ho for grunge, and Turnover did a 180 into full blown indie-pop with great results. So, we can’t help but think that maybe Basement lost some ground in the three or so years between records, and that they might still be making up for it. If you’re a hardcore Basement fan, then ‘Promise Everything’ will definitely be your reward for holding out. However, if you never gave them the time of day until now, this record won’t do much to sway you.

1. Brothers Keeper

2. Hanging Around

3. Lose Your Grip

4. Aquasun

5. Submission

6. Oversized

7. Blinded Bye

8. For You The Moon

9. Promise Everything

10. Halo