A Genuine Freakshow proudly boast that BBC 6Music's Tom Robinson liked their music, albeit two years ago. This doesn't surprise me - nor is their boast simply unjustified hubris - but I am curious that Robinson is the only name mentioned because Oftentimes is an album utterly suited to radio. Its long, sweeping introductions would provide the perfect backing-track for topical animal-related news stories, while the band sprinkle profanities so refreshingly lightly that the album is practically a radio edit already.

Not that any of this is a bad thing. Indeed Oftentimes is a musically accomplished and polished piece. A relatively short debut album that weighs in at only nine tracks and just above half an hour in length, the seven piece have constructed a musical offering that oscillates between aggressively energetic pop ('Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness'); grand, soaring melodies ('Our Bodies') and acoustic, semi-folkish numbers ('Warning Shot'). Subsequently A Genuine Freakshow open themselves to numerous and frequently divergent musical comparisons. 'Hopscotch Machine Gun Madness' sounds like Alphabeat learnt to swear on the way home from youth club and 'You Cut Me Out' has in places the delicacy one might associate with Damien Rice. 'She's Got A Shooter' is endowed with a lengthy introduction reminiscent of some of Biffy Clyro's work , although Simon Evans and Timothy Sutcliffe's guitar work simultaneously weaves through the song with a Spanish-sounding intricacy.

My concerns with this album are certainly not musical. Some bands end tracks with palpitating drum beats or erratic chords in order to powerfully challenge the status quo, in contrast A Genuine Freakshow end every track with the same polish with which it began. Although the thirty second fade out on 'Holding Hearts' is debatably overindulgent. Nonetheless the incorporation of a cello, trumpet and violin into any debut is an impressive feat.

However, lyrically the album is bland and unoriginal, which although perfectly suited to stereos in veterinary surgeries, fails to grip the listener or encourage repeated outings. For instance, whilst musically dark, 'She's Got A Shooter' is lyrically confusing; too short and obtuse to be an effective metaphor, it certainly doesn't conceal a sermon on gun control either. Similarly small parts of the guitar in 'Holding Hearts' are quirky enough to bear muted comparison to Radiohead, but the lyrics fail to make any kind of impression. In particular "We could start a riot. We are your nightmare" is about as frightening as a Cambridge student protest.

A Genuine Freakshow have been caught by the inevitable pitfalls that accompany the creation of a musically impressive work. But if they hope to achieve the popularity and prestige of the influences they cite (Elbow, The National) then any lyrical weaknesses must be strengthened. Great music rarely limps along supported by one component; it spreads the weight and reaps the reward.

Photobucket