Funny to think of the Truckers when they started. They’re an unshakable Cardiff totem now, one that crams a small venue at Swn each year with people happy to see them a twelfth time and miss other new bands for; early gigs (first one supporting Lightning Bolt lest we forget) saw them as something of a scrappy power trio, sole surviving member Hywel marshalling two geezers from SKWAD to make a weighty brew of fret-tapping and party math rock dynamics. Even in Incarnation#1 it was a winning recipe – slippery post rock too joyous with melody and invention to be mentioned next to most of that genre’s main shakers. Songs were rejigged and rearranged for each gig, mutating on past steady line up changes (Incarnation#2 with iceman ben on guitar and hairy cellist Ollie is a personal fave) and odd periods of inactivity. Seems almost weird to think of the current line up – with ex-Jarcrew and Leave The Capital dudes bring bass heft, keyboard sheen and religiously observant drumming – in terms of stationary stability, but the twin facts of a settled band and definitive album versions of (sometimes years old) songs makes if fairly unavoidable, no matter how illusory.
Pretty happy to report then that ‘Accelerated Learning’ is pretty great; a debut album that fizzes with confidence and buries weird noises and melodic gems under deceptively shiny surfaces. There’s some brilliant moments: opener ‘staynicegetradical’ pulses with urgent drums and fluoro synth hum, buzzes, breaks down and builds up beforespitting out a solitary vocal line at the death. More breathless fun for ‘Awesome Tapes From Africa’, the tropical fan favourite that isolates the perfect sunkissed, five-note guitar riff, isn;t quite sure what to do with it, but has brief, balmy fun dancing around it anyway. The 2011 version is sugary without being saccharine, and the videogame bleepfest that slowly mutates back into the song’s original riff is a nice touch (and not bad for a track that essentially opens with a drum solo).
Long term fans, especially those stuck mentally dancing to old Clwb sets, may find ‘Accelerated Learning’ a touch too heavy on the vocals. It’s true that on ‘Brace Yourselves For The Secrets Of The Juggernaut’ and ‘… In Garnant And Ammanford’ they sail a little too close to those of current yelpy trend bands in tight trousers; results elsewhere are much better though. ‘Dear Malcolm Sullivan I Hope You’re Alive’ is knotty and melancholy, slow-throbbing with three separate killer hooks, while ‘Psycho Billy’ is a great earworm chorus repeated endlessly amongst handclaps and squawking sax. ‘Person For The Person’ shows the album’s permanent lightness of touch best: the underrated oldie’s collaged robot samples buzz constantly over tiptoe-ing guitar; after a hundred listens its hold on you is total.
‘Accelerated Learning’ is pop music shot through with experimentalism, unafraid of shoving in a burbling, squelchy instrumental that sounds like a bedroom Emeralds (‘Down And Out…’ is brill btw) in the same hour as a quiet little guitar doodle (‘Ballad#2’ is, you know, alright). Closing number ‘The Choir Song’, with piano, strings and heartbreak coda, could have been painfully wet; as it is, it has a minimalist gothic intro, an overheard conversation at the end, and makes a brilliant virtue out of its awkward beauty. ‘Accelerated Learning’ stamps big ownership on the past and present, and makes the future look pretty grand too.