The Wave Pictures associations with other, similar acts such as Darren Hayman, the Mountain Goats and Herman Dune, have strongly influenced their output to date. Coupled with obvious nods to heavyweights of musical history - Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, the Velvet Underground, the Go-Betweens - the band's influences often tended to overshadow some of their own work.

I mention all these other acts mainly because, with this epic double album (90 minutes across two CDs), the Wave Pictures have made something that transcends those influences. Their last few albums have been strong, but it feels that with City Forgiveness they have reached a peak.

Whilst this album isn't that much of a departure in terms of sound, this time around the songs are longer, often hitting the five or six minute mark. For those of you who view them as a singer-songwriter with a backing band, or have never seen them live, you should know that David Tattersall is a fine guitar player and here he lets himself go on nearly every song. It is rare to hear such abrasive soloing these days, particularly within the field of indie-pop.

Apparently most of City Forgiveness was written when the band spent six weeks driving around America in a small van on tour with Allo Darlin', and you can hear touches of the latter's influences on the gentle, pretty post-card of a song 'Whisky Bay' and the reflective, downbeat 'New Skin', to name just two. The rest of it is built around the twin salvoes of clever lyrical touches and Tattersall's wonderful guitar playing.

The first lines of the tense, taut opener 'All My Friends' ("Once I dreamed I saw your face on a carton of milk/ once I dreamed I spilt the milk all down my shirt") set the album up beautifully. They manage to take the everyday details and make it into something memorable, a dreamer's view of the kitchen sink if you like. The first guitar solo is just over a minute in, and it's an extended free-form job, snaking and stretching around the minimal rhythm section. Wave Pictures are a bare bones kind of band; literally consisting of guitar, bass and drums with few effects and studio trickery. There is another long solo before the track ends, and they way it fits within the song is a skill worthy of Tom Verlaine and Television.

'Before This Day' has a much lighter touch, with delicate bright guitar lines, with more than a nod to African guitarists. This time the lyrics paint a detailed picture of an idyllic childhood, "brother sister father mother, each in love with one another", as they prepare to move house. I can't think of many pop songs that would focus on such things, yet once again it completely works.

I could go on like this but there are 18 more songs and I'm not in the business of writing sleevenotes. There is an awful lot to admire here. The Wave Pictures are particularly good at edgy, tense songs, such as 'Chestnut' (which also includes the line "your Adam's apple rattled like a kettle") or 'The Woods' which details the seedier side of London and makes a decent attempt to out-rock'n'roll the Velvet Underground's 'Rock'n'Roll'.

They do catchy songs as well of course. 'Better to Have Loved' has an infectious chorus, as has 'Shell', and first single 'Lisbon' manages to squeeze two wild guitar solos into its three minute duration, whilst still remaining a solid pop song.

'Missoula' is a self-deprecating love song ("naked in the motel room, my beer belly dancing in the afternoon") and 'Golden Syrup' is the most traditional singer-songwriter tune here, lifted out of the ordinary with lyrics such as "I enjoyed the anxiety, it went on joylessly, joylessly, like the 1990s."

They balance the lighter material with the melancholic songs very well, and whilst a 90 minute album is a major listening commitment for some people these days I can see why they felt the need to extend themselves. There is hardly space for me to do justice to the bleak 'Tropic' which turns lyrical clichés on their head and ends with a brutal guitar solo, or the superbly moody 'A Crack in the Plans' with it's chaotic descending guitar patterns, or the sax solo aping David's guitar style on 'Narrow Lane'.

Closing track 'Like Smoke' is a beautifully downbeat closing song. The words paint a picture of a family funeral. "Clouds formed above us, as black as the teeth at the back of your mouth" underline that skilful lyricism again and the triumphant refrain "we will rise above the city like smoke" could well be their ashes, after cremation. The scene is so vivid that when it ends you are left sitting there, reflecting on what went before.

It is an audacious move to release such a long album, but The Wave Pictures are on top of their game right now. Yes, City Forgiveness demands your time and attention, but it is very worth it.