Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Album Review: Empty Spaces by Reverse (by Chris Bishton)

Reverse first started in the early 90s. Hailing from Stoke in the UK and once described as a gritty, melodic, hardcore band on the Damaged Goods label, for me they always also had a definite pop-punk bearing.

They often drew comparisons to their very British contemporaries Snuff, Leatherface, China Drum et al, particularly as I think they recorded a few times in Newcastle, which possibly involved Frankie Stubbs's input, and they also played a gig there with China Drum after they'd split.

After going their separate ways in 1997, they briefly reformed putting out an album, Chasing Ghosts, on the Japanese SP Records in 2011, only to split again. Now, it seems, they're still not done and they're back again. They might not be prolific, but my god, they're durable.

As I always do, I have a quick count up of how many songs are on the album and how long the record is. Twelve songs in just over half an hour, rightly or wrongly, ticks the first punk record requirement box for me. It means I'm over the first hurdle of perhaps being a bit reticent to go back to a band I'd loved, but maybe I should leave in the past.

With that thought, I hit play and the opening title track, Empty Spaces, kicks in. It's the first new music I've heard from them in nearly 10 years, but the sound is unmistakably them. I'm so pleased they've stayed close to their roots. Guitar joined by drums, as the two combine to gather speed and really crisp vocals. The chorus "if you're not sure… is this a world worth fighting for" is an instant earworm.

There are so many songs on this album vying to be the catchiest. Undone is just one, with a great mix of soaring guitars and alluring vocals, followed by my favourite track Broken Windows. It builds for the first 20 seconds or so with guitar then drums, before the vocals start and the song really kicks off.

The album's tempo skips along well. For some reason Stay Angry, Fire Flies and the penultimate track Northern Soul, standout for me. I say "standout", but I realise when I listen to this again and again my favourites on the album change, which is unusual for me as I can be a bit of an "I know what I like type".

The album concludes with the song Bloody Mary & Grant Hart, a brilliant song title if ever I've heard one. Like the rest of the album the pace of it is perfect, somehow allowing me to grin and singalong both at the same time.

In a year that's been so bad for so many reasons, we've actually had a tonne of great music released and this album is right up there as one of my favourites. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, but they absolutely deservedly should be welcomed back with open arms with this new record. And whilst gigs may still be hard to come by, once we're out of this mess I really hope these guys do a few shows because, judging by their album, they'd put on a hellava comeback performance.

*Fun Fact: the first time I listened to this was on a CD in the car. I liked it, but wow… the band had gone in a pretty different direction in their time away. It turned out there'd been a mix up at the pressing plant and the new Jaded Eyes album had been pressed on CD and included with the Reverse LP. Boss Tuneage sent out replacements to everyone as soon as they realised… so, as if you need reminding, another reason to support your independent punk label.

Find Empty Spaces on Bandcamp here and streaming on the usual platforms.

Like Reverse on Facebook here.

This review was written by Chris Bishton.

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