There’s something in certain tracks of Rules that scream “Big Black” at me. Again - nothing to worry about, whereas Big Black were all “nasty” and aggressive, these Civil Civic dudes are relentlessly happy.
There’s something that’s very 80s about Civil Civic, and it’s not just their music. When I say their music is “80’s”, don’t worry: I’m not talking about Wham, The Smiths or even The Pixies. There’s something in certain tracks of Rules that scream “Big Black” at me. Again - nothing to worry about, whereas Big Black were all “nasty” and aggressive, these Civil Civic dudes are relentlessly happy. Listening to Rules is like having a bucket of neon poured into your head, (metaphorically of course). It’s that conceit of two guys with a drum machine set-up, the choice of keyboard sounds and that original “indie” ethic that remind me of the mid to late 1980s in a good way, which is a rare thing nowadays.
The album starts off with Airspray, which doesn't start off too promisingly, what with the simple steel drum melody fading in, but soon enough the fuzzy bass, guitar and drum machine kick off. The energy of the track is infectious, and the steel drum is soon forgotten. There’s a bit of fading on this disc; the trick that continues with Run Overdrive. If I can apply a dodgy painting metaphor here, a gentle guitar run is the undercoat, before the drum machine provides the solid base coat, with more guitar giving superb highlights. A fantastic, happy song that makes you want to dance.
This sunny feeling continues with Street Trap, which just comes in all guns blazing. Fast and fun with a furious beat, the drum machine and up front bass makes this the track that really reminds me of Big Black, although without any of the menace. Big Black's more well-adjusted, fee-paying son perhaps? There’s time when the track is skilfully striped back to just the beat, before layering it up again, which can send shivers up my spine. I reckon it'd be a great driving tune. Following that, Grey Nurse has a Wurlitzer sounding keyboard and surfy bass. For some reason I can imagine guys in leather jackets chasing each other around a rundown amusement park. Elsewhere, Less Unless starts with a really old fashioned sounding hand clapping rhythm, the backward sampled guitars really make this sound unique. There are foot-stomping opportunities aplenty here, given the big slices of distorted and wailing guitar.
There are some mellow moments; Sky Delay gives us time to draw our breath, there are some great “1980s sounds” and it could come straight from the sound track of John Hughes movie. Mayfield is a real chill out number, the kind of thing NASA would release a time lapse of the voyager flight through the solar system to. Lights on a Leash is another boasting a mellow mood, the echoing guitars reminiscent of the Cure. The track also serves as a great introduction to It’s Krill, whose jangling guitars soar off into a joyous arc across the sky. I’d love to see this one played live as I hope that when the fuzzy bass kicks in, the dance floor goes wild.
Rules is a fabulous record, and it even gets the girlfriend’s seal of approval with a surprised "What is this? I like it"