Album review: INTERNATIONAL RESCUE – No Country For Old Men

Cowboy City Records [Release date 17.06.13]

Formed in 1980, International Rescue originally built up a sizeable following in Bridlington and the East Yorkshire region culminating in an appearance on Channel 4′s The Tube. They subsequently lost their record company deal and then their vocalist and front man Stephen Skinner who left to join to Orange Juice.

3 decades later, they find themselves reformed and in a very different musical landscape. Original drummer Spec – he of the gravity defying hair – has gone and has been replaced by the vibrant Joel Cash. They formed their own label years ago and their lush melodies and catchy pop songs sound better than ever.

Taking its name from the Cormac McCarthy novel, ‘No Country For Old Men’ might sound a touch ironic, but 11 beautifully constructed songs point to the fact that whatever the prevailing musical trends, there’s no substitute for good song craft.

Stephen Skinner provides the deadpan vocals and his song writing partnership with guitarist David Waller hits rich a seam that is probably more mature and fully formed than the first time around. The delicate array of guitar tones and subtle arrangements with carefully placed backing vocals make for lovingly crafted, layered songs that sit comfortably between the sing-along pop of Orange Juice and the insistent melodies of The Blue Nile without the synths!

IR’s music is reshaped and informed by experience and maturity. They appear to have a wealth of songs that seamlessly hang together as all good albums do. The melodically fluent ‘Don’t Ever Change’ is a perfect example of a style that fuses jangling guitars, crisp percussion and swooping bv’s, while they rework the Beatles guitar line from ‘If I Needed Someone’ on the snappy tempo, pulsing bass and stop-time bv’s of ‘I Don’t Know What It Is But I Like It A Lot’. The latter might also have made a great album title.

Each track rolls into the other with a flow and enthusiasm that sounds as if the band can’t wait to tear into the next song. ‘Its My Parade’ is a subtle pop song full of angelic bv’s and a melody that owes much to Edwyn Collins, while only the frantic ‘Let’s Rip It Up’ offers any suggestion that their music was initially rooted in the punk pop era.

For the rest, the gently stroked chords and chiming guitar motif of ‘The Beast Of Love’ and the hypnotic, jangling groove of ‘Love Train’ stay in the memory long after the respective tracks finish.  The album works its way toward an up lifting, a cappella gospel finish on ‘The Old River Bed’, which features up tempo acoustic rhythms and a sculpted slide in sharp contrast to the tragic narrative.

There’s much to admire about this album. You can almost dip into any part of the CD and be drawn into the songs by the band’s essential grasp of melody, harmonies and hooks. Contrary to what the title of the album might suggest, International Rescue is a mature pop band with fresh ideas, vibrant playing and an inherent feel for well crafted pop with substance. They infuse their material with rigorous musical values that stand outside of fashion and Flock of Seagulls inspired haircuts. Radio 2 anybody? **** (4/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra

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