The music industry is fickle, and you have to be tough to break it, tougher still to survive breaking it. Then there's the actual definition of what "breaking it" actually is! Villains could have been hailed as breaking in and making a name for themselves under their previous incarnation as "Never Means Maybe", but it would appear that they realised there is a ceiling sometimes and you can either sit and coast that ride till it dies, or, you can reinvent and take a few chances.
I'm really glad that they took the latter option, becoming "Villains" not only allows the party to continue, but it shows an industry maturity from five Essex lads just trying to do what they love. So rather than have another album under the Never Means Maybe moniker, we are treated to the self titled album "Villains". I feel it would be an injustice to treat this as a "debut" release, even though it technically is - I see the album as an evolution of what has gone before, the next stage in the journey. The sound is not that of a "new band", a confidence shines through that speaks of the synergy that the guys have built up through the years.
So what exactly are we getting in this 10 track evolution? It's alt-rock at it's finest, not afraid to break out of the mould in places, while giving enough structure to make it instantly anthemic, tracks such as "The Light Outlives the Star" and "Wicked Ways" seem written for a live environment, for a crowd to join in with. There's enough quality guitar riffery to inspire the next generation of bands while managing to avoid the seemingly current trend for being too trendy, let's face it -the rock genre should be gritty, raw and emotional not being a well groomed rude boy making a mint in the City! Villains (the album) has 10 radio friendly tracks that are varied in style, texture and tone, yet are coherantly stamping a "sound" that will resonate with many.
As I mentioned the band aren't afraid to mix it up a little, one particular moment that really caught me off guard comes halfway through track 9, "Sinners". What up until that point is a full on intensity of driving bass, and an exploding full band choruses, comes to and end, only to be revived with an acoustic mid section that leads the song into another reprise of the chorus to finish. It's this kind of genius that shows the bands experience at songwriting. Where most would have been satisfied with the frankly brilliant song that "Sinners" already is, Villains have managed to add something fresh without distracting.
Other standout tracks for me include "Bleed" with it's darker feel, intermixed with beautiful guitarwork sitting over a solid rhythm section, "The Light Outlives the Star" - a true anthem, "Visions" relentlessly melodic but with a bit more agression than other tracks. And I can't fail to mention the most different track, the album closer "The Hardest Part", there's a story behind this retrospective belter. I don't know what that story is but there's a familiarity that will resound with just about everyone when they hear the line "All this room does is remind me of what I've missed", whether it be unrequited love, missed opportunity or not being there when you should - rarely can a band capture a mood so succinctly.
Villains have hit the mark with this album, already getting praise from the mainstream, radio airplay and TV coverage are just an introduction to what 2014 has to hold for the band. I'm really excited about what the UK has to offer in 2014, ignoring the industry drivel that gets rammed down everyones throats, we have heroes (and Villains) of bands serving their time and putting in the effort and producing something truly remarkable. All that needs to happen is for you and me, the fans, the gig goers, the listeners - to get off our arses and support these great acts at every opportunity. Buy the music, go to gigs, grab some merch (even though it's sometimes overpriced, but I won't rant here!), that's the price for getting this level of creative band up the ladder of success. Villains, well done! Now step up and receive what you are due!