This album sounds like a great deal of work has gone into it; the songs are interesting, the instruments are all played nice and tight, and the production sounds really full and clear, but I have to confess I'm struggling with it because of the vocals. The Rank Deluxe offer up a confident and thoughtfully crafted album full of indie rock which should, by rights, gain them a lot of attention and maybe some airplay. Once again, it's the sound of early 80's post-punk which informs the band's sound, and in the Rank Deluxe's case the influence seems to be both The Ruts and The Beat (bands with a tad more intelligence and creativity than many of their counterparts). The guitar playing stands out - a tight and schooled American approach to indie rock along the lines of Albert Hammond Jr, and the rhythm section is totally on the case with snappy disco rhythms and reggae influenced basslines. So where does it all go wrong? For me, the stumbling block is the vocals - singers Richard Buchanan and Lewis Dyer have made the decision to sing in a resolutely cockney accent, which is no doubt their own speaking voices. They both have good powerful voices, excellent range and accuracy, but the upfront nature of the glottal-stops, flattened vowels and dropped H's detract in no small way from the band's music.
I'm sure it's an approach the band must be happy with - an unambiguous declaration that The Rank Deluxe are a London band - with colours nailed securely to the mast. This may win them some fans because singing in your own accent is somehow more "real" but could limit their appeal to audiences north of Watford, or on the other side of the Atlantic. Lyrically solid, musically adventurous and sonically charged, the album has few low-spots and works better on tracks like Innocence where the cockneyisms are less emphatic and more relaxed. Basically, this is what Hard-Fi would sound like if they were any good - and one or two listens will make your mind up. I won't be listening to it much, but I have found myself humming the melody of Doll Queue all week, so they must be doing something right.