On October 2015, INHEAVEN landed on Earth with the release of their debut single, “Regeneration”, and the South London quartet skyrocketed to become one of the UK’s buzziest bands. In the 23 months since, INHEAVEN have meticulously and methodically released singles while piling into their van and bringing their ’90s-inspired alternative rock to the people. The approach is old-school, but the rewards have been immense for a band that almost never saw the light of day.
Before the band’s conception, co-founder James Taylor was perfectly happy to write music for no one, but friend, bassist, and co-founder Chloe Little convinced him to take a leap of faith. Now, INHEAVEN have established a legion of fans across Europe and abroad. They’ve toured with Sundara Karma while selling out their own headlining gigs. In the process, they’ve been mentioned alongside Wolf Alice and Black Honey as the new generation of indie-rock royalty in the UK. With the release of long-awaited, eponymous debut album, INHEAVEN firmly establish their place on the throne.
INHEAVEN is a full-bore rock record that feels like an edge-of-the-seat concert crammed into a compact, 40-minute package. It’s not, however, just an engrossing piece of entertainment, but the album is a massive political and social statement. It is loud, it is hard, and it is extremely relevant to the times we live in. Some of rock’s great bands could learn a thing or two from INHEAVEN’s adeptness of merging the cathartic and anthemic with meaningful songwriting about the political and social states of the world (*cough* U2 *cough*).
The opener, “Baby’s Alright”, immediately introduces the listener to INHEAVEN’s titanic artistry. As Little’s bass drives the song and the tickling percussion creates a groovy vibe, Taylor sets his sights on the world’s greatest superpower. As his voice tinges with anger, he holds nothing back in this scathing attack on America and the hypocrisy that exists (hence the song’s title). His words are:
“Lonely kids of the U.S.A.
Fight a war in a foreign state.
No they ain’t got your technology,
So we burn them down with no apology.”
He further adds:
Bombs will drop and the world will shake.
Don’t believe a word they say.
Pull the trigger now or face your fate
In a messed up place where hate breeds hate.
The apex of the album is the monstrous “Vultures”. As the menacing guitars and the gut-punching rhythms churn the air, Taylor and Little play off one another to describe the rising swell of right-wing bigotry and self-righteous, self-indulging, power-hungry leaders. This is a protest song and one of the most ferocious of the year. The edgy and dark “Treats”, meanwhile, further takes on the aristocracy and their self-centered ways. Little’s voice is not just her own, but she’s speaking on behalf of a generation of young people will not be silenced.
I don’t want the world like this.
I don’t want the world left like this.
Our lives matter, hear me now.
We’re going under, you beat me down
With a post-punk fiery, “World On Fire” is a chest-pounding banger that is even more forthright in its lyrics. Little leads on the main portion of the song while Taylor takes the reins on the chorus. Little’s lyrics, however, are the most biting, as she calls out the President of the United States.
How do you fight a man you cannot stand
When he’s got the world right in his hands?
I don’t want to bring you down,
But this whole world don’t feel good now.
He’ll build a wall and kill them all,
So he’s the last man standing tall.
Stupid is what stupid does.
A man who lies you cannot trust.
His women bound they must obey.
Every grooch does what he says.
The second half of the album centers around the discontent, anxieties, fears, and hopes of a younger generation. Their first single, “Regeneration”, is just the tip of the iceberg, as Taylor expresses his frustrations with the malcontent attitude of his fellow Millennials. On “Bitter Town”, INHEAVEN deliver a spectacular, Jesus and The Mary Chain-esque shoegaze rocker that is the anthem of disaffected youth everywhere. “I don’t know what I need. I don’t got no policies”, screeches Taylor as he takes on society’s growing obsession with materialism.
Love, of course, is in the air, and in these moments INHEAVEN show their tender sides. The pop anthem “Stupid Things” is the band at their most indulgent, as Taylor and Little express their undying love for someone. It’s a welcome break from the heavier, more intense songs on the album, and the addition of the horns adds a nice romantic touch.
The ’80s-influenced “Do You Dream” is a heartwarming, melodic number that sees Taylor asking if another still loves him. In a similar vain is the catchy power-rocker, “All There Is”. It’s not the typical love song, but rather the unbreakable bond between two people even after they’ve drifted apart. In other words, it’s a feel-good breakout song.
“Now you’re done with me
And that’s all there is.
You say it’s good for me
And that’s all there is.
Now you’re going your own way
But I still love you anyway.”
The closer, “Velvet”, is the crème de la crème of this segment. It is a blend of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine in its execution, as the guitars take on a dazzling shoegaze approach while the rhythms mimic the beating of a yearning heart. Taylor’s vocals, too, are heartfelt, as he aching calls out, “Don’t let me face this world alone.”
This last lyric makes for a fitting end to an album that started off with a fierce edge but then concludes with a cry of desperation. The impact of these words, however, extend beyond just two people. It is the call for calm and a plea for unity. In a world so unpredictable as the one we currently live now, INHEAVEN remind us that despite the violence, hate, and fear there is still one thing that holds us all together.
INHEAVEN is out now via PIAS Cooperative. The band is comprised of James Taylor (guitar/vocals), Chloe Little (bass/vocals), Jake Lucas (guitar), and Joe Lazarus (drums).
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