Brave Mountains

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Not since the Illinois-via-Antwerp stylings of dEUS crossed the North Sea 20 years ago has such a geographically incongruous record appeared on the radar, an observation built on equal parts approval and perplexity. Like the Belgian troupe, southern French trio Appletop lasso their influences - almost exclusively late 20th-century American indie rock à la Pavement, The Breeders, Sebadoh - before carrying out a process of skinning, evisceration and repurposing of the husks. Unlike dEUS, however, the result of their taxidermy is mostly lifeless, being anatomically correct yet intrinsically a facsimile. There are glimpses of brilliance amid the 10 workmanlike cuts: Portand, chorus aside, glimmers and twinkles in a sad-eyed fashion, while melancholic chugathon New Again aches and sways like the best of Buffalo Tom's bruised balladry. It's a struggle to find an argument for favouring Brave Mountains over any of its blazingly conspicuous sources - dEUS swiftly shed the cloak of influence to build a sound all of their own; Appletop show no sign of sharing such ambition.

Sean Guthrie