The LaFontaines – Common Problem (A Wolf at Your Door Records – Oct 2017)
Daring alt-rock/hip hop hybrid with an unmistakably Scottish sound and plenty of venom.
Responsible for launching the careers of Deaf Havana and Mallory Knox, A Wolf at Your Door records have a proud history of signing acts with just that little something different about them. While both have largely moved away from their post-hardcore beginnings towards a more alternative rock sound, they have both managed to retain something of the unique edge which first endeared them to scores of music fans looking for something distinctive. This tradition, it would seem, is alive and well on the second album from Scotland’s The LaFontaines (named after the American voice actor, Don LaFontaine), entitled Common Problem.
The follow up to 2015’s Class, on first impressions it seems as if the band are experimenting with the same form of genre-terrorism that propelled The King Blues (are we allowed to talk about them anymore?) and Sonic Boom Six to the forefront of the UK punk scene in the late 2000s. However, it quickly becomes apparent that their vision is something more ambitious. Seamlessly blending the ethics of punk with the attitude of hip-hop and the bold, almost stadium-esque arrangements of modern alternative rock, what results is something truly impressive more akin to the likes of Twenty One Pilots and Young Fathers, both of whom have made considerable waves in recent years, the latter even winning the Mercury prize in 2014 for their debut album Dead.
The album’s opening track “Explosion” sets up its social and political conscience, dealing with social issues both at home in the band’s native Motherwell and further afield with the rise of the far-right in Europe and America. This is something that the album never loses sight of, even on more inward-looking, commercially-driven songs such as the title track “Common Problem”, which wouldn’t sound out of place amongst chart pop at your local club night. “I hope for smaller gains, punctual trains, a living wage” lead singer Kerr Okan venomously spits on “Torture”. “Goldmine” is the undeniable centrepiece of the album which effortlessly shifts gear between softer dynamic spaces and the powerful, driving hooks which, by this point of the album, have become something of a regular occurrence. The thumping bass intro of lead single “Release the Hounds” is especially rousing and does more than enough to dispel worries of any potential gimmickry from a title which, whilst it sounds menacing, is essentially a Simpsons reference. The album’s closing song “Asleep”, it strikes me, would have fit perfectly on the soundtrack to Danny Boyle’s recent Trainspotting sequel.
On Common Problem, The Lafontaines have succeeded in bringing back a sense of ferocity and individual identity seldom seen in mainstream music these days. With any luck, this could be the album that pushes them there.
UK Headline Tour
13th November 2017 - Lending Room, Leeds
14th November 2017 - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
15th November 2017 - Sound Control, Manchester
16th November 2017 - MK11, Milton Keynes
18th November 2017 - Barrowlands, Glasgow
19th November 2017- Northumbria Institute 2, Newcastle
20th November 2017- O2 Academy 3, Birmingham
21st November 2017- Boston Music Room, London
22nd November 2017 - Leadmill, Sheffield
23rd November 2017- Rock City, Nottingham
Review by Jonny Cloke