Picture a sepia-shot, gritty late-night drama set in The Big Smoke's sordid underbelly. Here, after nightfall, amongst the sullied side streets, neon-lit hedonism and sallow faces, is where the sprawling progressions and acute observations of Gaoler's Daughter appear to be most at home. Their fan-funded first album is firmly rooted in the capital, unsurprising when you consider it's made by four of its inhabitants, and yet it's no love letter; there's a predisposition for wistful escapism under the cloak of darkness here, which fits hand-in-glove with their Wind In The Willows-inspired moniker (the character famously helped Toad flee his prison cell with only the full moon as a witness).

Ominous, fun, immediate and complex in equal measure, How To Make Time also feels like it's shrouded in urban loneliness, a loss of innocence and coming-of-age desire - big themes, which, of course, wholly defy their debutant status. However, they revel in this world-weariness; the record's studied approach is far from fresh-faced, sounding instead like the product of dishevelled rock stalwarts licking their wounds after the dissipation of a self-spun whirlwind of excess. But such a seasoned, scruff rock formula shouldn't come as a surprise; previous forays in various post-Libs cusp bands have clearly informed this debut, moulding it into the ragged gem that it is. Although, what works best, and where many spawned from the ashes of 2007 have since failed, is their ability to turn their early, Mandocaster-driven forays into something brooding, ear-pricking and consistently their own.

Opener 'St. Peter' is perhaps their stirring balance at its most accomplished. Singer, John Sterry, revels in another's demise, with a flash of fang that proves darkly comical in context. Marr-ish guitar and Savages-like intensity juxtapose with his welded words, his tone flitting between blasé and brutal. However, the key is that there are many facets to their poetic side and Gaoler's Daughter are as much a lyrical proposition as they are a musical one. 'The Invisible Man''s bone-chilling voyeurism precedes 'How Do You Know', in which Sterry bites back at his sister, who has warned her little brother that London will "dwarf" him and leave him "star-struck". It couples Radiohead's daunting big city on 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)' with TOY's motorik rhythms and caterwauling guitars, albeit with a fierce guitar pop sensibility that owes its (rubber) soul to Merseybeat. Needless to say, it's perfectly realised.

'3 Days Rain' is far less mass-pleasing, but no less rousing - its big swelling, 50s chords and vaguely surrealist, virtuosic tendencies provide a platform for Sterry's social magnifying glass, personal scrutiny and wry wit. In fact the whole thing is both sangfroid and iconic, documenting a relationship breakdown with off-kilter melodies and syllable-squeezing, which appear to be as informed by Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa as they are by any of the current, garage rock crop. At the other end of the spectrum are 'Cordelia' and 'When You Were Young', both of which deserve to be indie disco staples for a future, mop-haired generation. On the former, there's bittersweet infatuation with a girl who has "the number of the beast sewn into her fleece" set to a Smithsian jangle, while on the latter, there's longing recollection of childhood dreams over a hazy, steel drum hook; both are brilliantly earworming, with Alex Mahood (guitar), Alfie Ambrose (bass) and Ben Hutchinson (drums) flitting between a sonic punch and deft restraint.

Although How To Make Time may not necessarily be greeted with a fanfare (in 2013, you'd have to hail from the Digbeth area of Birmingham to warrant that), it's undoubtedly a thrillingly intelligent guitar record that seeps with imagination and reinterpretation. Ultimately, if this is London's hour in a Midlands-shaped shadow, then Gaoler's Daughter are providers of a fittingly impassioned retort.