Considering just how impossibly young S.C.U.M. were when they formed in 2008, they have of course evolved somewhat since their reverb and dry-ice genesis, when the show was more important than the songs. Back then it was all washy noise, a seemingly proud dismissal of conventional song structure and impeccable clothing, especially on the back of singer Thomas Cohen. S.C.U.M. looked like alternative guitar music should (young and beautiful) and sounded how alternative guitar music often tends to (terrible), and yet there was an undeniable sense of excitement about them.

Today, in 2011, with their debut album finally seeing the light of day, a lot of that excitement has evaporated with the band’s teenage years, as they wind up sounding a hell of a lot like Placebo, largely thanks to Cohen’s spidery whine.

In many ways the band have followed the path trodden by The Horrors (perhaps unsurprisingly when you consider how close the two are – bassist Huw Webb is the brother of Horrors’ bassist Rhys, for starters), becoming a band that you’d much rather listen to at home now, sure, but one that is no longer as unpredictable as it once was. They’re the boy you fancied because he was a bit rough, only now he’s cleaned up his act and has become far less appealing.

Drab, faux spiritual tracks like ‘Sentinal Bloom’ and the following ‘Requiem’ attempt to prove S.C.U.M. to still be outsiders, but really they just show up the far superior ‘Amber Hands’ and ‘Faith Unfolds’, which are unashamedly pop in their swooping, ice synths and vocal crescendos.

It’s hard to tell if S.C.U.M. are at odds with their new, ‘safe’ direction, or if they can’t quite squeeze out the upfront FM hits of White Lies et al. Either way, other than a couple standout moment in debt to Simple Minds, ‘Again Into The Eyes’ largely sounds unconvincing and ultimately forgettable.

By Stuart Stubbs

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