The Pigeon Detectives third album Up Guards And At ‘Em! starts off with the indie rock she wants me. From the very start of the album you can hear rockabilly influences used in a modern context, similar to the artists The Vaccines. The first few songs really sound like a reintroduction to The Pigeon Detectives’ sound and set the stage for an evolution away from their second album Emergency‘s post punk attitude, which came out in May 2008. After a two year period, Up Guards And At ‘Em! presents a perfect harmony between infectious pop and varied song structure, while still in keeping with the theme of the album, bringing credibility to their understated lyrics and rhythm guitar. It sounds like The Pigeon Detectives are coming into their own as they give leeway towards more instrumental exploration and, ironically, drop their guards to compose a modest and genuine narration.
Many of the songs, such as track 4 Need To Know This, start with techno keyboard and keyboard effects that lead into catchy electric guitar riffs and sidling snare drums, which sets the perfect backdrop for Lead Singer Matt Bowman’s stable and melodic vocals, cinched together with endearing Yorkshire accent.
Lost is reminiscent of The Wombats, with its youthful lyricism of lost love and late nights. Its verses express teen angst in a lighthearted brit-pop ballad, but things are changed up when it reaches the chorus, shifting from major chords to minor chords, giving the whole feel of the song a darker edge similar to Interpol’s Slow Hands.
I have to admit that when I first heard the album, though still enjoyable, I thought that The Pigeon Detectives had pared down their sounds a lot compared to their Demos, which took on a raw edge. That was until I got up to track 5 Done In Secret. Though half way through the album, I really felt like this was the starting point for Up Guards And At ‘Em!.
Believe me, The Pigeon Detectives saved the best till last. Like the structure of their songs, the whole album seems to start off with quiet harmony, building up in layers of guitar and crisp drumming, and ending in a crescendo of chanting, signature guitar riffs and keyboard.
Track 7 Turn Out the Lights is a real stand out of the album. Slower, and more precious sounding than previous titles, Turn Out the Lights takes you back in time to a 1950’s rockabilly slow dance, but introduces a modern dreamy vibe with fairground and Caribbean drum effects on keyboard, subtle synthesizers and haunting slide guitar.
Through The Door is a tale of discontentment with unrequited feelings. The guitar shakes with disgruntled re-verb and the chorus reflects the strain of trying, with no outcome, in lead singer Matt’s heightened pitch and exasperated “I want to dance with you, but me feet are too tired”.
Go At It Completely and I Don’t Know You are the last two tracks on the album and really encapsulate the ambition of Up Guards And At ‘Em! leaving the listener on a high-energy, fast-paced cliff hanger. In many ways, these songs play off on each other, as if I Don’t Know You is simply a knock-on effect from Go At It Completely’s waves-disaffected lullaby verses and suspenseful built-up chorus about wanting a girl to change her life for the better.
I Don’t Know You has this same lullaby-like narrative, but with symphonic guitar and muffled vocals it is comparable to the melodic style of Grizzly bear or the Strokes, and choruses that surprise. This song ends in the same way it begins and has an understated, intricately instrumental sound, giving you the impression it is leading up to reveal a larger, joyfully emotional sound so predominate previously on the album, but instead drifts off quietly into the ether.
After ten songs, the album abruptly ends, and you are left thinking “What? Come back! It was just getting to the good bit.” I have high hopes for upcoming albums from these boys. They have left plenty of room for experimentation and if you listen to Up Guards And At ‘Em! as I recommend to anyone who likes fun-sounding rock, you will agree with me that they could do so without losing that appeal. If you are at all like I was, dealing with the feeling of wanting more of the album after it has finished, you will be supplemented by having this album on repeat for at least the next week.