Album: The Stands

All Years Leaving, Echo

Andy Gill
Friday 20 February 2004 01:00

With All Years Leaving, the Liverpool combo The Stands have made one of the albums of the year. Unfortunately, the year in question is 1970, so in thrall are they to the sound of another West Coast - the one defined more than three decades ago by the winsome harmonies and jangling folk-rock arpeggios of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Burritos, Eagles, etc. In places, the album recalls Borges's parable of an author rewriting Don Quixote from a different historical perspective, so slavishly do they borrow from source influences such as Dylan and Neil Young. There's "I Need You", with the little descending guitar figure that concludes the choruses of "Just Like a Woman"; "It's Only Everything", yoking a harmonica break in "Heart of Gold" style to a muted guitar vamp à la "Down by the River"; and, most brazenly of all, "When This River Rolls Over You", with its clumsy lift of the melody to "Love Minus Zero/ No Limit". None of which would be quite so irritating were they not all treated in a generic country-rock manner, with Howie Payne's whine borne by a mid-tempo jangle. The tragedy is that Payne shows promise as a songwriter, with the title track evoking a similar mood of wistful solitude to that mined by Tinariwen: "When you're lost in the aching/ Of a lonely awakening..."

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