Elegies to Lessons Learnt
Though I too like trains, I was pretty sceptical about a band called “I Like Trains,” even if they did make it all one word and put the i’s in lower-case. It just seemed a little too straightforward and distracting from the music, like naming your band “bEERtASTESgOOD” or “gIRLSmAKEmEfEELfUNNYiNSIDE.” Surprisingly, the songs aren’t very much about trains, from what I can tell. Rather, they are dark tales of historical drama, death, insanity and general malaise, set to ponderous, plodding music that marches slowly up a granite staircase before spreading its creosote wings and soaring above the hellfire below.
At times, lighter chiming repetitive guitars evoke the sound of Interpol, but overall the feeling is truly Gothic. The lyrics have been called “wry” and “witty” by other reviewers (perhaps because of notable lines like “this time the French are not to blame”), but overall the dark themes and overwrought vocal delivery remind me more of iLiKETRAiNS’ Beggars Banquet predecessors Fields of the Nephilim or fellow Leedsters Sisters of Mercy than the Smiths. The neurotic twitchiness of Joy Division or Interpol is not overly evident; while neuroses are undoubtedly at work behind the scenes, the sound is predominantly one of turgid morbidity.
None of this is to say that the album doesn’t have ample sonic beauty; much of it is reminiscent of the epic soar and plod of Sigur Ros or Mogwai, but perhaps if the lyrics were in Icelandic or unintelligible Scottish it would be easier to avoid getting dragged down by the Edgar Allan Poe vocals. If you can get past this, or if you actually enjoy listening to the audio-cassette tour of Madame Tussaud’s House of Horrors, the album offers a relatively unique (and informative) sonic journey. (Beggars Banquet) (Jim Ebenhoh)