Hailing from Perth, this Australian band are slowly beginning to gain nationwide recognition. Richard Kingsmill the music director over at Triple J, adores these guys or that's what I'm led to believe, as he supplies them with much air time and has had their previous albums in his favourite album of the year lists. It's not surprising as these guys really do know how to write a song.
After gaining attention with their sophomore effort "Sleeps Like a Curse" they release their third and possibly most strongest, commercially digestible effort. Where Sleeps, was all over the place and interesting Cruel Guards pretty much follows the same structure all the way through, that's not such a bad thing as some of these tracks are brilliant when not fading into one another. Straight out of a Spaghetti Western, comes the rampant "Get Us Home" the opening statement and easily one of the better tracks here. "Creaks" will have you slightly mystified with the elegant intro with the guitar and piano interplay backed by effective hand clapping, with Jae Laffers voice forever holding the attention of the listener. It hardly ever changes key but there's something about the way he sings that's captivating.
First single pulled from the album is the idiosyncratic "Don't Fight It" which seems a little out of place here, but it doesn't seem to matter as this song is winning them countless amounts of fans even as i write this, rightly so as it's not a bad track, even though i don't think it stands up to some of the other tracks here. I think people are coming accustom to brass instruments now through pop music, which is good to see. "Feeling is Gone" seems like a throwback to an 80's track, well the riff anyway.
The title track is quite evocative, from the strumming of the acoustic guitar to Laffer's distinctive voice, to the chanting of "Cruel Guards" over and over until it finally builds and builds into the chorus etc, "there is a bright bright heat" Easily one of best tracks here. "Live Without" begins in similar fashion to "Creaks" which is a good thing as both are superb tracks. "I Confess" continues the hand clapping as they continue their impressive streak of songwriting. It's not until the end of the album when it all comes together on "Sundowner" one of the most powerful closers I've heard this year and in quite some time. I remember when i saw this track live, it towered above anything else they played that night, purely astonishing.
Sometimes the thought of listening to Cruel Guards irks me, only because they follow such a similar path the whole way through with some songs seemingly blurred as the confusion comes into play. Apart from that occasional feeling there's no doubt how impressive this album is, it shows a band in full confidence with every song holding the up most in quality. I feel they have stepped away from some of the sounds they crafted on their previous effort which is slightly disappointing, but it does seem that they had a vision for this album and it's starting to pay off. Expect them to take out this years Triple J award and possibly the AMP.