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Since Lancaster is one of the best Universities in the country now, I’m going to assume you’re all clever enough to appreciate a comparison of this album with a bit of an academic theory. There’s an idea that the two World Wars were something called Total Wars, which involved a number of key, unique features. The abandonment of all restraint, using every resource available in order to fight effectively, and a desire to beat the opposition into absolute, unconditional surrender.
I bring this up not to be a total smart-arse (well, there’s a bit of that) but because pretty much all of these qualities can be found in There Is A Way, the second album from everyone’s favourite haggis-loving hexad, Dananananaykroyd. This is an album that never stops, that barely shows any restraint, that uses all of the resources available to it (including legendary producer Ross Robinson) in a bitter fight to the death with the listener’s ears. Dananananaykroyd have declared Total War on music.
The piano chords that open Reboot kid you into thinking that There Is A Way might start out as a Phoney War, but it become blindingly obvious that this is going to be a Blitzkrieg through and through. The early victories of Reboot and follow up All Us Authors are impressive but nothing compared to what comes next – a trio of songs that are absolutely nothing short of pop perfection. Not that they’ll ever be pop – can you imagine a band called Dananananaykroyd being in the charts – but they bloody well should be.
Muscle Memory, the album’s first single, is an absolute delight, full of punchy guitars and incredibly infectious hooks. E-Numbers – it’s quite easy to figure out why it’s called that when you listen – is a giddy, explosive gem that’s bursting at the seams with excellent lyrics, well-timed screams and a tension building breakdown that erupts into the biggest shower of noise since, well, Muscle Memory.
But the real stand out of the album comes in the form of the almost indescribably good ‘Think And Feel’. It’s a bit of an odd one, mainly because it sounds nothing like anything Dana have ever done before, whilst still managing to be the most Dananananaykroyd-ian song they’ve ever made. And if you don’t think that the hilarious “I get bored, so, I go outside, for a beer! For a beer!” is the best chorus ever then, well, there’s a GP on campus, go and get your head checked out. It’s not hard for bands to make a happy song; a few lyrics about sunshine and a GCSE in Music Theory is all you need for that. But to make a song that invariably puts an astonishingly wide grin on everyone who hears it? That’s tough. They should stop dropping bombs on Libya and start delivering loudspeakers playing this instead. World conflict? Solved instantly.
However, whilst the songs never really dip hugely in terms of quality (though they don’t reach the dizzy heights of the start of the record), you quickly realise that There Is A Way is fighting a war of attrition on your poor ears. Once you’ve made your way through the gleeful insanity of Good Time'(that’s pronounced “Gu-gu-gu-gu-gu-go-go-gu-gu-gu-good-timmee!”, judging by the manner in which John Baillie Junior sings it) it becomes a bit of a long slog to the finish. The constant barrage of drums, the machine-gun fire of the duelling guitars and the combination of John Baillie’s and Calum Gunn’s yelping and wailing vocals becomes just a bit too much to bear in the final stretches, as everything merges into one big wall of deafening sound. It’s an odd paradox, since the remaining songs on There Is A Way, notably Apostrophe and Glee Cells Trade, are actually really good. In isolation they’re fantastical chunks of super-heavy pop-punk, but in the context of the record as a whole they feel like a bit of a chore to listen to, and by the time the last notes of Make A Fist ring out you’re feeling physically and mentally drained. A bit like war. I knew this metaphor was going somewhere.
If they could have just calmed it down for one song in the second half of the album this might have been a heavy masterpiece, but unfortunately There Is A Way is just very good. I say unfortunately, but very good is hardly a bad thing. Muscle Memory, E-Numbers and Think and Feel have got to be some of the best songs to have come out of the year so far, and the second half of the album only seems dull in comparison to the white-hot incandescence of the first five or so songs. And sure, when you’re sat on your own listening to this through headphones it does indeed get a bit exhausting. But Dananananaykroyd are one of the best live bands in the country (if not the best), and in that setting they’ll be tiring in a much more enjoyable way.
A wise man once asked “War? Huh. Yeah! What is it good for?”. There Is A Way proves once and for all that the answer to this question is a resounding Dananananaykroyd.