Citizens! is anything but typical when it comes to your alternative rock groups. For starters, the UK-based group of guys has found a home with French record label Kitsune, choosing to market themselves that way. Unsurprisingly, the group has been making waves in Europe for a while now, and just starting to gain a bit of momentum with their October 9th stateside release of Here We Are. The band bears checking out but make no mistake – they are not for everyone.
My instinct when listening to them is to draw comparisons to Phoenix, perhaps with a bit of Animal Collective thrown in. It seems like the goal of the album includes simultaneously being sexy and weird for the sake of being weird. If the music doesn’t draw people in, maybe the old adage “sex sells” will. I’m only half kidding. Actually, a remix of that adage, “passion sells” might better fit the overall theme. This isn’t to imply that the band is just trying to sell records – if that were true, the music itself would be far less ethereal and – dare I say it – creepy.
Before you write off this reviewer as a prude, let me say that its not the topical matter of the songs that throws me off – it’s simply their accessibility. That said, the band shows a lot of potential. “Reptile” is probably one of my favorite tracks thus far and it has a creative performance video to go along with it. “Caroline” carries a catchy hook of its own as well, as does “True Romance.” The latter is an anthem to love and its many expressions, all equally valid – a point driven home by the band and who directed the music video. True romance, in whatever form, persists in the midst of chaos. The journey that was started by passion meanders into uncertain territory, culminating in the bizarre “Know Yourself.” The intro to this suggests the hesitancy that one might encounter looking within. Learning to embrace all of oneself, and in the process uncovering baggage can be a strange and at times frightening experience. That mood is captured well in the final song. Ironically, “Monster” has a more comfortable feeling, settling into a groove that at times recalls “Billie Jean” – yes, that “Billie Jean.” Other songs carry a more predictable ambience, such as the desperate “She Said.”
Citizens! have crafted a debut certain to appeal to the crowd that’s into underground Brit-rock. They are advertised as being for fans of Two Door Cinema Club and I hear shades of Phoenix vocals but the truth is both bands are easier to get into. But, that could be the charm in Citizens! as they develop. Here We Are, in spite of its missteps, is a good start for the band.