Factor 50 have been, slowly but surely, building up their discography, perfecting their energetic live shows and making a name for themselves in Falmouth and Bristol. With several poppy singles and the incredibly fun ‘The Vault’ EP released this year, we have now finally been treated to their debut album.
‘Tourist Information’ is, in every way, a huge step up from the EP. Maintaining the youthful indie-pop care-free attitude of ‘The Vault’ on some tracks, the album also feels much darker, much more patient and much more ambitious than their previous project.
This is immediately evident from album opener ‘Everything Is…’. Much like ‘Instrumental’ did for BC,NR’s ‘For The First Time’, this track builds tension masterfully, introducing the textures of the album and the character of a braver Factor 50. The build-up of these sounds, from whistles to sax stabs, is so exciting; it’s the perfect start to a F50 gig and naturally the perfect start to their album.
In a satisfying transition, previous single ‘Eh Okay’ finally finds a home on a full album. Eddie Akers’ vocal performance is exhilarating here, while the descending lines are so full of character and always make me smile.
‘Factor 50’, the single, lives up to its name and effectively acts as a theme song for the band. The track contains everything that makes them so special, from a catchy chorus to a deceptively simple sound; the track creeps up on you. After a particularly satisfying build up, when the drums and bass finally open up once again, it’s one of many goosebump moments.
The next two tracks are the album’s strongest. ‘Skyline‘, arguably the most ambitious track here, is a real slow-burner with a theatrical feel. Akers’ vocals are sincere and emotional, which he handles just as effectively as his shouty indie-pop. The chorus features wailing guitars, lovely harmonies and poetic lyrics, while the gnarly bass tones give the track an edge.
It’s a patient track, and never once rushes, instead allowing each section unfold at its own pace – a perfect example of how much more mature this project is than ‘The Vault’
As vocals build up in a round on top of each other, they compliment the gorgeous instrumental soundscape perfectly.
‘The Subsequent Decline Of Breathable Air’, at an even longer 9 ½ minutes, is similar in structure but more aggressive. A wholly unpredictable track, we see different textures arise: droning bass notes, sinister and sassy spoken word (think Jarvis Cocker on ‘I Spy’) and guitar tones that sound more similar to fellow Falmouth band RIZTS than Factor 50.
The mid-section is the most beautiful moment on the album. The arpeggios, minimal drums and Akers’ falsetto creates a dreamy breath of fresh air before an ominous drone promises a climactic finale. In this climax, the band have fully captured the sinister energy they craft so perfectly on the stage.
After a completely surprising and beautiful piano/sax interlude, offering a refreshing change of pace, gorgeous piano chord progressions and a tender and controlled sax performance, we reach ‘At Jims’, the final track.
In perhaps the strangest change in sound yet, the track hints at a completely different version of Factor 50 than we know. The marching drums, bouncy bass and Akers’ Morrisey-esque crooning create a brilliantly eerie atmosphere and, with the haunting falsetto backing vocals, the tone is genuinely very uneasy. Fresh influences come through, from the Grandaddy-esque glitchy bleeps and bloops to the Steve-Reich plinky guitar and bass lines.
As this final track proves, it’s actually very difficult to put your finger on Factor 50’s sound. ‘Tourist Information‘ is both unpredictable and consistent, both funny and haunting and never quite goes where you think it will. With the band sadly losing Patrick Welsh and Billy Mattock, their sound will surely change again. But, wherever this wonderfully odd band goes next, we can’t wait for them to take us along.
For Fans Of: Black Country, New Road, Courting, Do Nothing
Catch Factor 50 at the following:
Killigrew Inn, Falmouth – 22nd September
Cavern, Exeter – 24th September
Mr Wolf’s, Bristol – 28th September