Hundred Reasons – A Retrospective (2001 – 2007)

I wasn’t there from the beginning, I haven’t got all the early singles, I didn’t see them when they were tiny/sleep with them when they weren’t famous/know them by name.
There we go, I’m not their biggest fan. However, I have every album, even the mp3 live EP, and a split single with Garrison (more on that later). All I can say is that I read a review, downloaded some of their songs, loved it, got bought an album, loved it even more and then kept spending my hard-earned on them.

Can’t say fairer than that.

So, what are Hundred Reasons? This is a big, big question. My housemate (eternally known, now, as DJ Pinstripe… he should never have let that one out of the bag) will unquestioningly say “EMO!” and grimace. My best mate will just talk over it. The only friend of mine that likes them enough to actually buy their music will just nod sagely and go hmmm. Being a stickler for labels, genres, tags, etc, I’m going to have to try and place them somewhere – hardcore/emo tinged rock? Not punk, for sure, too much metallic guitar work, but not metal. Simple, pure, ROCK? Nope, the lyrics have that angsty teenage “depth” that makes me vomit, laugh, or just sigh.

OK, enough amateur musicological faffing about – the history. Formed in 1999, according the source of all knowledge, the band at the time consisted of Colin Doran (vocals, a little bit of keyboards), Larry Hibbett (guitars, vocals, production), Andy Gilmour (bass), Andy Bews (drums) and Paul Townsend (guitars, vocals). This bunch managed to spit out three albums, a live DVD, a whole bunch of EPs and the split single which is coming first in the overview. The name came from a poster promoting skating, which was advertising 1000 reasons to do such a wonderful thing.

I remember seeing the band, once, in a Fopp promo thing, and being surrounded by 15 year old emos all looking like clones of Panic! At The Disco crossed with Siouxie Soux, while the band, and my 18/19 year old mates were all in what I would describe as normal clothes – jeans, t shirts, shirts, sweaters (and I was in a tweed jacket); we were chatting to the band beforehand, being hideously early (and typically, I was holding the camera, instead of being in front of it), and enjoying a good show. What’ll always stick in my mind is how the kids stood still, being all scene and ironic, while the band went absolutely nuts, giving it their all, and not a smear of make-up in sight.

So what are they? Really, when it comes down to it, the defining band of my youth – straddling the lines between punk, emo, rock, they typify the changes I went through between 16 and 20, and even their growing musical vocabulary charts a greater listening trend at my end. In describing their effects on me, well, it went from jumping around to stroking my chin, but still, there’s something visceral there.

Well, I suppose I’d better get to the music, really. That first EP, split with Garrison, is, in essence, shit. The band don’t offer much in the way of decent tunes, although the faster, harder Counting The Days gives a little twitch in my headbanging muscles, simply as a conditioned reflex. If you were going to seek this out, use it as an opportunity to be a) a completist or b) to listen to some Garrison. Released one year before their debut, it was, and still is, a document of their early attempts at the classic HR sound, and at getting some exposure.

The gold selling, glowing review garnering, fresh, innocent (I swear I’ve seen innocent bandied around before) and generally ass-kickingly good debut album, Ideas Above Our Station dropped from the heavens in 2002, and fairly rocked my world. Of course, this being me, I didn’t get hold of it till I was 16, and this didn’t happen till 2003, but we’ll look over the delay, and deal with the thing itself.

Kicking off with a monumental riff (well, actually, a 1,2,3,4 drum click, but you know what I mean), I’ll Find You also has one of their best choruses, and opens up one of the strongest first sides of a modern rock record I’ve heard for a long time. The tight Answers, the yearning Dissolve and the mental, absolutely mental What Thought Did fill the space until the next single, If I Could, which is an anthem, no doubt. Fan favourite, crowd pleaser and generally kick-ass tune, this is possibly their calling card. It’s got the classic interplay between Larry and Paul, the big chorus, the quiet/loud thing that everyone’s been doing since grunge, and some more-complicated-than-necessary-but-that’s-the-way-we-like-it drumming. Oh yeah, and the lyrics make no sense, at all.

Falter, Oratorio and Avalanche, spread throughout the second half, slow it all down somewhat, with the added joys of vocals from Larry and Paul, who really gets to show off on the brilliant, epic Silver. Truly, their Stairway. It’s the hidden gems, namely the hardcore tracks Shine and Gone Too Far, and the frankly nutty Drowning that do it for me – the melody to the latter just hits the spot, and is my favourite song of theirs, bar none.

Switching forward 2 years, and the boys have a new album out – difficult second album syndrome, something which I normally hate to think about, as often, it’s a really easy way out of reviewing something that just isn’t fresh anymore, really does apply here. It’s got some stunning songs, but Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge really does feel darker, harder and much less listenable. Out of the four albums they’ve released, it’s the one most people seem to like the least; however, it’s one of my favourites (contrary bastard that I am).

Brilliant songs like What You Get (and its vinyl B-Side, What’s Right… one for the collectors, I have to admit) and Pop really show the band’s strengths; the former has the whole slow burning anthem thing going on, except with a lot more darkness and foreboding – the latter is a whistlestop tour of the vocal talents the band possess, with Paul taking the vocals for the verses, and Larry hitting up those choruses (having never seen this performed live, I’ve always wondered what Colin does, but with the slightly tweaked line up, I’m guessing he’ll do the verses, as well as the short bits of back-up he does on the bridge/second chorus). Harmony and Truth With Elegance also get honourable mentions, but otherwise, it’s not a case of avoid, just a case of listen, appreciate, then move onto the other discs.

After getting dropped by Columbia, selling themselves at Reading, and then getting signed by V2, they went away for a while, got ready, played my local Fopp (obviously an important point in their career development) and then released Kill Your Own in the lovely year that was 2006. Really loud, really clever, lots of great guitar work and self production for the first time, instead of working with Dave Sardy… all instruments set to kill, and kill this does – damn fine disc, almost as good as the first, in all honesty. Every track is a stunner, and although the organ (yes, organ) on the end is a little bit Origin Of Symmetry, and I’m not the greatest fan of The Chance, it’s a spankingly good album.

Standout tracks include Kill Your Own (more keyboards), The Perfect Gift (their best song of the “latter period”, period) and No Pretending – just avoid The Chance, really, please, leave it alone. It’s utter shit, no holding back – I really hate that song.

One year later, and out comes ANOTHER album – Quick The Word, Sharp The Action. First thing you hear – pianos. At least it kicks into a damn fine song, followed by another damn fine song, No Way Back. Classic style – chunky riff, impassioned vocals, and typical anthemic tunes. The one problem with this album is memorability – nothing has stuck in my head as much as the others – there’s just nothing ridiculously sticky unless it’s No Way Back. The Shredder is mental, Sick Little Masquerade has a drum machine, but the last five or six songs have left no impression on my memory, whatsoever. Even after one listen, each of the other albums had tunes, lyrics, riffs and moments that I could hum, quote or just jump and down to in manic abandon. As a collective effort, it’s saved by the first three, and the last two songs: Break The Glass, No Way Back, Sick Little Masquerade, Lost for Words and Out Of Time, the last of which has in my mind attained classic status, already. Yes, it’s that good. It’s just a pity that 5 songs out of 13 is an awful rate of return, especially when one of those bad tracks is the worst thing I’ve ever heard come from the band (the terrible She Is Poison)

Ideas Above Our Station: 8/10

Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge: 7/10

Kill Your Own: 8/10

Quick The Word, Sharp The Action: 6/10

As must surely be obvious, I recommend Ideas and Kill Your Own – much like Muse, they only do alternately great albums, trying something new out in between, and refining it on the next one. I raise my metaphorical glass to them, and wait excitedly for their next show on the South Coast.

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