by Chris Familton
Rules is the debut album from two Australian expats who met in Barcelona and spent the next two years constructing its songs. As the title suggest they set themselves some strict guidelines with which to write the instrumental music that would comprise their debut album, a record that thrives on energy, ebullient yet melancholic melodies and some brutal and primitive rhythms.
Instrumental albums either cast aside traditional song format and head into more obtuse territory or they let their musical ideas and playing construct the hooks that the vocals would normally provide. Aaron Cupples and Ben Green firmly chose the latter and as a result Rules is brimming with the types of catchy riffs and solos that lodge deep in your memory receptors. They also excel in a wide range of styles from Strokes’ish surf and sci-fi garage rock to M83 maximalist synth anthems. That may sound like a chaotic mess but it works because the duo anchor their songs in programmed drums that create a mechanistic cohesion to the album. Run Overdrive and Sky Delay are pure 90s fuzz and riff college rock guitar workouts while they also show a post-punk/goth-pop streak in songs like Lights on a Leash that sound like a Cure or New Order demo before descending into a subterranean fetish nightclub. Mayfield virtually dispenses with drums, creating a beautiful billowing guitar and bass composition that sounds positively angelic in light of the surrounding static and beats.
By stripping their electronic instruments back to an analog-sounding skeleton Civil Civic have allowed the melodic strengths of their guitars to take centre-stage and the result is an impressive exercise in collaborative cohesion that doesn’t sacrifice songcraft for style.
this review was first published in The Drum Media / The Music