AMPLIFIER – ‘Echo Street’

amplifier echo streetAMPLIFIER – ‘Echo Street’
With four EPs and three blinding LPs in their space-locker, Manchester’s Amplifier are now comfortably tucked into the Prog-Rock stable and with the follow-up to the critically acclaimed double The Octopus about to drop, they’re looking to explore new worlds and expand new horizons with a rapidly expanding fan base.  Now a firm four-piece following the departure of bass player Neil Mahoney, replaced by Alexander Redhead and with fully on-boarded six-stringer Steve Durose (ex Oceansize), they’re at full compliment and it shows; albeit subtly so.  Their debut was awe-inspiring, its follow up less so but equally muscular.  The Octopus was hugely ambitious and effective but occasionally lost consistency to retain full attention.  Where they’ve yet to match their debut for all out space-rock mastery, ‘Echo Street’ does conserve a lot of its qualities.  The slow burning grooves that build agitation before exploding off their launch pad in a vast cacophony of splintered hooks, riffs and soaring choruses are present in part, but absent a little too often to make this release stand shoulder to shoulder with its predecessors.  Opener ‘Matmos’ and ‘The Wheel’ are just the ticket, the latter showcasing Durose’s effervescent lead to stunning effect.   ‘Extra Vehicular’ could comfortably sit on album number two Insider – a typical Amplifier journey-jam that vocalist Sel Belamir likens to Felix Baumgartner’s fall to earth; which kinda perfectly sums it up.  ‘Where The River Goes’ is one of the aforementioned slow-burners, that ends on a stunning high, but takes far too long to get to the point.  If there’s a weak link its probably ‘Paris In The Spring’ and the acoustic indulgence of ‘Between Today & Yesterday’; neither of which ever really gets going or connects.  The title track is expansive but again lacks the songwriting and compositional flair of the earlier cuts.  And we close out with ‘Mary Rose’ that shows moments of escape, but drifts too close to indifference and eventually disappears before you’ve had chance to sink your teeth in.  Never has an Amplifier album felt more split in two than Echo Street.  As a result it’s first half is arresting, bracing and brilliant.  But it has a second half that feels frustratingly hesitant and a little powerless.  (6)
STEVE FLETCHER

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