Keeping it balanced, Liverpudlian collective’s long-overdue debut locates a garden of delights behind the bars.
As a band endorsed by Gibson Brands before they recorded their first album and revered by Eddie Kramer who volunteered to produce it – yet didn’t – there must have been a ton of pressure on this quintet to deliver the good. And they do. In spades. Which is not surprising, really, given the four bars of the record’s title on its cover turn into two equal signs if you turn it sideways, with various symbols of conflict peeking from behind. By the same perfect, if quirky, logic “11:11” holds – in an oxymoron manner – an amazing variety of mostly mid-tempo pieces that create a majestic mood swing, from exhilarating to hilarious.
With an occasional snippet of studio banter left in to guarantee the effective immediacy of it all, the ensemble’s forte is Keith Xander’s soulful vocals spread over infectious groove and spiked with slider rolls. But this is when the lack of wonder must stop. Songs such as the intensely shamanic “Fire” or the psychedelically rippled “Rain” feed on Delta vibe but add a Scouse buzz to it, bluesy licks of opener “Mindscape” unexpectedly leading to oriental melody which unfolds into a hook-laden chorus where hooks that replaced the singer’s right hand paint a pointillist portrait of an escapist.
It’s impossible not to fall under the translucent spell cast by “Shadows” – stately and sentimental hymn to hope extolling the virtues of spirits of evolution (making it “revolution” in this context would be fundamentally, and mentally, wrong) as the great escape’s saving grace, a way out for our world. On a more mundane level, though, the falsetto-spiced plea “Night Dress” reveals the band’s soft underbelly, the vulnerability making their numbers truly lovable, while “I’ll Be Here” taps into classic balladry to rise from the bedrock of murmuring organ to a strings-washed paradise.
It’s a multi-colored journey which will see the nervous grace of “Let Go” propel its twang to the bottom of the listener’s heart, and acoustic tincture take “Truth Lies” down the country road. Still, to fully embrace the ensemble’s approach one has to follow the route running from the gripping, soaring expanse of “Dance With The Devil” to the frantic swirl behind “Dancing In The Light” up to the heart-rending, desperate, if determined, epic “Searching 4 The Light”: here’s a core of the quintet’s concept, this perpetual quest for the goodness. “11:11” is their firm, life-affirming step in the right, and righteous, direction.