Having already offered up a few addictive singles, London band Breton have – to our great satisfaction – released their second full-length collection, a lovely album called War Room Stories. Arriving after last year's partly hip-hop-inspired EP, Force of Habit, the album is a great explosion of sound, dripping with influences that range from film soundtracks, to dark urban attitude and indie-dance energy. Surprisingly, these guys have somehow managed to evade notoriety in the UK, being rather big elsewhere – the largest bastion of fandom being France.
It's surprising because, well, they're good. They're damn good. And whilst following some marginally common though altogether recognisable "indie" tropes – nonchalantly yelped vocals with sing-along appeal, math-style drum fills, a general feeling of cool; all demonstrated in addictive opener 'Envy', and in the second funky half of 'Brothers' – there are many reasons why this is a wholly new offering, something that should be celebrated in terms not only of its actual sound, but also of its progression of "band music".
For starters, let's take the 44-piece orchestra with whom Breton recorded War Room Stories. Songs are given an extra dimension with soaring compositional style – sounds are richer, atmospheres become more epic. For instance, the brass in 'Legs & Arms' gives its verses a thick, brash punchiness, the song itself ending in a crescendo of scrambled strings; the otherwise gentle 'Closed Category' ends similarly, far-flung urgency exhaling from a supreme orchestral gush. In a way, it could be seen as a kind of insta-maturity, but on the other hand it feels much more like an integrated part of the band's sound.
Garage-influences arrive in the booming beats and municipal pizzicato strings of 'S Four', and in the driving bass of 'Got Well Soon', which also exudes a synthpop sensibility – as does the skittering heart-attack beat of 'National Grid', with all its shivering bleeps, with the saw-wave bass of 'Brothers' providing a delicious crunch. Chilled reggae oozes from '302 Watch Towers', whose aching understated synth solo towards the end comes as a glorious surprise.
Closer '15 Minutes' is a composite of all these things, a highly kinetic track that demonstrates the spirited energy of Breton. It's this energy, or passion, that supplies the glue for all the seemingly disparate elements – without it, each song would be an uninspired contrivance. To combine filmic orchestral scores with the punch of hip-hop, the fun of indie-dance, flavours of funk, nocturnal London sounds, glistening electronica, with such natural fluidity makes War Room Stories a genuine pleasure to listen through; and makes it not just an interesting but an important step forward in highlighting the versatility of "the band", as well as in prolonging its perceived shelf-life.