‘Hunger Of The Pine’ might stand to be one of the most emphatic songs alt-J has ever conceived. Written during the darker days of guitarist Gwil Sainsbury’s departure, it is a rich and misty masterpiece.
A pulsating bleep combines with saxophone to drench the opening scene in anticipation, and that sample of Miley Cyrus’ ‘4x4’ somehow works perfectly. These textures blend to create an almost religious and uplifting epic, with lyrics that explore the idea of missing someone as a very real and physical pain.
Despite that burst of ingenuity, the rest of ‘This Is All Yours’, the Mercury Prize-winners’ second studio LP, has a fair wedge of directionless self-indulgence. The lyrics of ‘Every Other Freckle’ – “I want to turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet” – sound like Gomez Addams charming the morbid pants off Morticia in arpeggio, and a tacky interlude ruins the thriving tension.
‘Warm Foothills’ is possibly the worst song they have ever written, combining the sounds of a bad Christmas and not pushing yourself hard enough, and amplifying it through the chambers of one’s own arse. Fortunately, ‘Bloodflood Pt. II’ salvages proceedings, with a tender build of strings, horns and a deluge of other cherry-picked sounds.
From exhaustive touring, perhaps alt-J became so tired of their debut that they tried to write away from it, thus departing the schizophrenic unpredictability of ‘An Awesome Wave’, a quality this record quite drearily lacks.
‘Hunger Of The Pine’ singled out what could have been a seismic new path but, with more attention paid to plucked triads and syncopation than packing any sort of resolute punch, ‘This Is All Yours’ just can’t see the wood for the trees.
Words: Joe Zadeh
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