Take It How You Want It

  • Self Against City
  • Drive-Thru Records
  • 2005-05-04

Self Against City have a remarkable skill for writing very catchy songs, carving out a niche in inoffensive emo—pop.

The first track is fairly representative of the album as a whole. There’s some quite interesting drumming, and two guitars, which tend to divide duties between emo—tinged chords and a higher, more melodic line. The singer has a good voice in that he hits all the notes well, but I found that after a while I couldn’t stand his So-Cal nasal inflection; “Desire” isn’t pronounced “Deehsiiyehhhhhrrr”!. Although the song is under three minutes long, they fit in a lot of textural variation — even when using verse/chorus patterns, they are able to maintain interest by constantly changing the way they play different sections.

…and the ending goes on repeating the same bit for about a million years

Track two is a slow ballad — it sounds like the boy and the girl finally getting together at the end of a US teen—flick. Tracks three and four pick up the pace again, with interlocking guitar lines, and riffs with angular rhythms. They’ve got catchy melodies, with an Incubus-style flange effect and McFly harmonies. Track five is purely a pop song, and the ending goes on repeating the same bit for about a million years.

The best is saved till the end though. In the last track they use the two guitars to their full effect, with two sets of broken chords being held together by a strong bass line and more thoughtful drumming. The chorus is slightly anthemic, but without getting too annoying. If they can build on these types of arrangements, they could produce much more interesting songs.

They’ll probably do incredibly well for themselves, occupying an emo—pop territory somewhere between Finch and Busted. The way that they write such perfectly crafted highbrow pop songs seems almost calculated, appealing to such a massive number of people all at once. In fact, queasily reminiscent of Blair during the 1997 election. The voice of the singer grates my spine, and I couldn’t listen to them for more than half an hour. But it has to be said that they achieve what they’re trying to do completely flawlessly.

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