THE BATS: THE LAW OF THINGS (1989)
1) Other Side Of You; 2) Law Of Things; 3) Never Said Goodbye; 4) Yawn Vibes; 5) Time To Get Ready; 6) Ten To One; 7) Mastery; 8) I Fall Away; 9) Cliff Edge; 10) Nine Days; 11) Bedlam; 12) Smoking Her Wings.
If there is a «law of things» according to The Bats, it is unquestionably the law of preservation — the band's second album does not introduce even a single serious change to the formula. Same lineup, same twin guitar jangle, same guest violinist, same vibes, same moods. Same crude production style, too, except that Robert Scott's lead vocals frequently get clearer in the mix and are not as often double-tracked with Woodward's, so you can get a better picture of the sonic palette of New Zealand's Roger McGuinn — if you'd like to get a better picture, of course, because his voice isn't exactly the epitome of expressivity, to put it mildly.
The album is rarely, if ever, described as a «sophomore slump», but critical reaction here usually follows the well-known critical principle of «If A precedes B and B = A, then A is better than B», as the band is supposed to run out of its originally accumulated cloud of inspiration and slip into a «regular workman» routine. It is a dangerous sign when it is the opening and the closing track that are usually found listed as highlights — meaning that the listener, most likely, fell asleep right after the first song and woke up towards the end — and this is more or less what happened to The Law Of Things.
Granted, the closing track, ʽSmoking Her Wingsʼ, which was also the single, is a little different: if anything, it sounds like the little brother of Joy Division rather than The Smiths, with a vague hint of threatening doom emanating from its droning guitar parts and with an unusually stern, almost «ceremonial» singing tone — yes, I think the late Ian Curtis would have dug this, even if The Bats, byt their very nature, are physiologically unable to generate those dark clouds: at best, this is just a slight patch of fog, but even in this way, it stands out from the rest.
And the rest is the rest: average-fast pop-rockers driven by pretty, but unexceptional folk-pop melodies and singalong-style choruses, almost always in the same relaxed-idealistic emotional state. I suppose that ʽTen To Oneʼ, stuck in the middle, is also a bit of a standout — guitar and vocals pack a bit more crunch, and even Alastair Galbraith's violin screeches and scrapes like somebody just stepped on its tail, er, neck. But that's just two and a half minutes out of a half hour of overall pleasant sameness. Feel free to pick your favorites — I, for one, think that the album only loses if you begin to think of it in terms of individual melodies. (For instance, the melody of ʽNever Said Goodbyeʼ borrows its first chords from McCartney's ʽListen To What The Man Saidʼ — which, subsequently, makes its last chords sound like a botched version of that song's melody. I could easily see somebody preferring the ragged, unglossed-over production of The Bats as artistically superior to McCartney's «stiffly polished» arrangement, but in terms of general melodicity and catchiness, Paul wins over this particular phrasing, hands down).
Still, especially in the context of its times, The Law Of Things as a whole is quite a thumbs up experience. The title ʽYawn Vibesʼ may be appropriately self-ironic, but at least these are some happy, tasteful yawn vibes we are getting provided with.
Check "The Law Of Things" (MP3) on Amazon