‘An I LIKE TRAINS record doesn’t really start to take shape until there’s a theme’, says the group’s vocalist and lyricist David Martin. ‘That point came following Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks in 2013.’ The band’s new album ‘KOMPROMAT’ (the Russian term for compromising political material) finds the Leeds-based five-piece tackling current affairs and the amount of dishonesty, mistrust and corruption that seemingly surrounds those in power…
With Brexit, Trump, Cambridge Analytica and the influence of Russia all taken into account, this is new territory for I LIKE TRAINS to explore – and there is so much to say. The world is a very different place to the band’s last release eight years ago and they’re also exploring new sounds. The opening of ‘A Steady Hand’ is full of glitchy and electronic sounds that fall somewhere between Depeche Mode and Wild Beasts as David laments the way certain people complain about being ‘a stranger in my own country’. Seemingly about the way things can be pushed forward, no matter how corrupt (remember prorogue?) and where in the world you are, you can feel the seething anger from all of the band as the song draws to a post punk-tinged conclusion: ‘I am the President, I am the overfed son of an immigrant’. ‘Desire is a Mess’ follows with a stuttering start that is drenched in noise and feedback and this powerful piece covers how those in power will get away with all kinds of cowardly actions (remember hiding in a fridge? I’ll stop these soon…) by asking ‘How do you sleep at night’ before an alluring bass line takes it into art pop territory.
‘Dig In’ introduced this new thrilling, direct sound to ILT with is menacing lines (‘Stick to the script and I’ll cover our backs’; ‘I suggest you tread very carefully’; ‘I have no shame’). while ‘PRISM’ is a touch slower with a sound that reminded us of some of the great goth bands of the ’80s. Its hypnotic mantra of ‘Mark my words, one of these days you will get what you deserve’ holds on to that belief that soon people who break the rules will get their comeuppance… ‘I am the chosen one, I am the redeemer and it’s worth remembering no one voted for God either’ are just some of the Jarvis Cocker-esque lyrics in ‘Patience is a Virtue’, a punky song with an angular sound, scuzzy riffs and David playing the role of judge, jury and executioner. There’s a touch of The Twilight Sad in the ear-blistering guitars in ‘A Man of Conviction’, a song all about cover-ups (‘We put the bodies in the basement’) before ‘New Geography’ takes things into more melodic – yet no less dark – territory: ‘I’m afraid we must insist on silence, you’ll need a drink to get through this’.
‘The Truth’ was also released ahead of the album and this song combines a Peter Hook-style bass line with beats and matter-of-fact statements: ‘You will never see me again and even if you did, you wouldn’t recognise me’. The closing ‘Eyes to the Left’ opens in a style akin to Arab Strap with Anika from Exploded View delivering a spoken-word statement that covers inusrance policies, credits, big dreams and friendship before things get very dark, very quickly – ‘I took your job, I took your children, I took your country’ – and the electronic sound returns along with some impassioned yells from David.
Despite being written before the virus took hold, I LIKE TRAINS have conjured up the perfect soundtrack to 2020 with its feelings of despair, hopelessness and isolation – but also melodic hooks and enough passion to show that things can change for the better. We all just need to work together and hold those responsible to account.