It's hard not to be wary of bands that readily name their influences, whether it's via their website, a press release, MySpace page, or whatever. The reasons are two-fold:

1. If a band names a series of artists the listener likes, they're already battling against lofty expectations.

2. Often a band mistakes 'bands we like' for 'bands that influence our sound'. There is a difference.

Take Ayrshire four-piece The Darien Venture, for example. In their biography they name-drop Aereogramme, The Beach Boys and Tool, presumably as a means of staking a claim for eclecticism. Sure, like Aereogramme they're a bunch of Scottish men playing earnest rock music that specialises in dynamic shifts and strives for the anthemic. But does having harmonies, any harmonies, automatically scream 'Surfin' USA' at the listener? God only knows.

The most accurate point-of-reference for the band, and one they have also acknowledged in their influences, is Biffy Clyro. Which is also a bit unfortunate, given both bands are from the same part of Scotland. Make no mistake, this Indications EP sounds a lot like Biffy Clyro and I fear The Darien Venture have condemned themselves to a lifetime of answering questions on the subject.

Is there anything wrong with sounding like Biffy Clyro? Well, if you're a fan of that band, then the answer would be no. Ten years ago I'd have probably said no myself. But The Darien Venture seems to have skipped over the early part of Biffy's career when they had a slight weird otherness in their songwriting. Instead, they've jumped straight to the latter-day stodginess, where adding a string section is seen as musical evolution (in fact, I'm fairly sure TDV are only sans strings here due to budget constraints).

I don't want to come across as being unduly harsh on the band. There's nothing wrong with what they're doing. They're clearly highly competent musicians, and display a willingness to mix things up musically. Sometimes it works quite well; there's a lovely choral gang vocal in the middle of 'Animals' before the band kicks into a math-ish breakdown. But there are ill-advised moments elsewhere. I'd quite happily never hear lyric "from the last time you left you were dressed as a pirate, I treasure your chest and the heart that's inside it," from 'The Whydah' ever again (in the face of Biffy Clyro comparisons, it's probably best to avoid nautical lyrics outright).

Many people will enjoy this EP, but the band's lack of personality is inescapable. It's too clean, too precise, too lacking in anything that would elevate it above being a mere exercise in competence. The unavoidable comparisons to their neighbours are not going to help The Darien Venture either. They are to Biffy Clyro what Finch was to Glassjaw. If Biffy Clyro are Gary Neville, and I often like to think that they are, solid enough but ultimately quite dull, then TDV are Phil. And no-one wants to be Phil Neville.

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