I should start this rambling review by making it fairly clear that I’ve never really been into Title Fight, and I’ll admit that I’m not sure why the band are as popular as they are. I’ve listened to their discography; I bought Shed in a record store in Amsterdam and have only listened to it a few times; I saw them live once and they were excellent, but I’ve never been able to take a great deal of enjoyment from their past LP’s. It’s a pretty shitty way to start a review, but I’m a bigger fan of honesty, and it means I can highlight that I went into the bands third LP (forth if you could TLTYF), which is notably different to their first and second (and third) hoping that Hyperview would be able to win me over. So, have I been converted? Well, yes and no, and after a few playthroughs I’m very much torn on the matter of Hyperview, and on Title Fight. See, honesty.
From their initial breakthrough into the underground as rowdy punk upstarts Title Fight seem to have come a long way on Hyperview, which alters the bands direction drastically, shifting from the noise of past releases to a hazy, shoegaze-influenced melancholy, causing tracks to often drift instead of dart. It’s a direction which was hinted at on Floral Green‘s misfit Head In The Ceiling Fan, but it’s much more focused and prominent here. Like Seahaven’s 2014 outing Reverie Lagoon… Music For Escapism Only the record drops the aggression in favour of honed ambience, and the result is a somewhat mixed bag, unlike the California bands effort, which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.
The change in dynamic that Hyperview opts for is certainly its most noteworthy element, and it also makes for an interesting listen; one which is ultimately much more mature, but also quite polarising in delivery. Opening track Murder Your Memory sets the tone and mood, dense with atmosphere, but it feels sluggish in nature, slightly bland, and it isn’t until better second track and single Chlorine that the record seems to come to life, rising slowly on the opener and then speeding things up second time out, clean guitars twanging amidst more energetic instrumentals. At times, on this track and on several others, Ned Russin’s vocals get lost and it makes the lyrics hard to pick out, his echoing drawl drowned by the thick fog that permeates several of the songs, namely on Trace Me Onto You and MRAHC. Granted, it’s fitting with the warm, relaxing nature of most songs, but it’s one of the many things which make Hyperview a conflicting listen. Often it doesn’t do enough well enough, and I struggled to connect with several of its songs, just as I did on the bands past LPs (It’s not you, it’s me?). Highlight Rose Of Sharon will be more familiar to long-time fans and less so to those first introduced to Title Fight by plunging into the digital bath of Hyperview. I suppose that I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, and I liked this track, which is the only song to feature harsh vocals, capturing an energy that the majority of the record lacks. Your Pain Is Mine Now is another standout selection, reminding me oddly of fellow-northerners The Smiths a great deal, seeming to expand on MRAHC, on which Ruskin does sound a lot like Morrissey. It flickers and dances, guitars weaving and shimmering around a likable daydream of discordant noise and suitably lacklustre vocals, very good.
I’ve been watching a lot of Twin Peaks lately, and listening to Hyperview I feel like a lot of the album would complement the unusual nature of the show. Dizzy is spacious and enthrallingly mystic, a sombre, sleepy selection, piercing guitars and lazy vocals carrying it. It’s an example of Hyperview at its finest, bordering on gorgeous, but these moments on which it truly shines aren’t often enough, and although it’s easy to signal out Your Pain Is Mine Now as the strongest track by a distance it’s also surrounded by a few which are far from exceptional. My main issue with Hyperview is that it didn’t engage me enough; I’ve occasionally been bored whilst watching a lot of Twin Peaks, and I feel like Hyperview also has these lulls which don’t appear to bring a whole lot. Sometimes when I watch Twin Peaks and hope for more scenes with a 21-year old Lara Flynn Boyle (Donna) I realise that the episode seems to be taking much longer than forty-five minutes to finish, and Hyperview also carries this issue. Upon conclusion it felt like it had lasted more than half an hour, and although I’m normally a big fan of time-consuming, meandering records (Reverie Lagoon…, to namecheck Seahaven again) I wanted the release to end sooner than it appeared to; I guess it didn’t hold my interest particularly consistently. Liars Love and MRAHC slow things down perhaps too much, and towards the records end things also starts to feel quite familiar, with New Vision, which should be a solid closer, falling flat really, seeming to borrow from several of the songs preceding it.
I know I’ve already dropped a few comparisons, but Hyperview also reminds me of Tigers Jaw’s Charmer of last year, both positively and negatively. As was the case back in May when I reviewed the latter I’m both surprised and impressed by the way that the band have managed to mature as musicians, experimenting and broadening their horizons, but I feel like the change could have sounded more convincing, because several listens and 1,000 words on I’m still not sold by the release, and my feelings for Title Fight haven’t changed a great deal. At times excellent and at others ordinary Hyperview has its moments, but its impact is lessened by an occasionally boring and repetitive experience. If, right now, you were to ask me if this is a release I can see myself returning to often, then my answer would be a firm ‘maybe’. If I’m browsing in a record store and see it I’d be tempted to pick it up, as I did with Shed, but aside from that Hyperview‘s longevity is difficult to determine, and I sincerely hope that it’s weaker moments grow on me.
Listen to: Your Pain Is Mine Now / Rose Of Sharon / Dizzy
Stream it here: http://www.npr.org/2015/01/25/378606787/first-listen-title-fight-hyperview