The LaFontaines – Common Problem

Coming off the success of debut album, Class, The Lafontaines are back with the traditionally difficult second album, Common Problem, released yesterday (27th October).

On first listen, there are three things I noted. Firstly, Common Problem lacks the immediacy of Class. There’s no song that jumps out the way ‘Slow Elvis’ or ‘King’ did on the debut. Secondly, there’s a subtle shift from a guitar-based to sound to synth.

Don’t panic, the guitars are still there, though the electronic sound has definitely come more to the fore. And thirdly, and this could be related, there is also a bit of maturity coming through.

However on subsequent listens, things start to change slightly. In particular ‘Armour’ and ‘Release the Hounds’ start to seep into your consciousness. You find yourself turning the volume up, your head starts to nod and you realise that actually that maturity I mentioned earlier hasn’t stopped the boys from finding a riff and hasn’t dimmed frontman Kerr Okan’s swagger in the slightest.

Unfortunately, the flip side is that there are tracks that leave me a bit flat. ‘Goldmine’ and ‘Atlas’ both leave me, to quote the former, “underwhelmed and cold”. It feels as if they have tried to touch too many bases at times. It’s admirable to have a variety of influences, but to try and squeeze rock, hip-hop, EDM and radio-friendly pop all onto one record, it’s inevitable that there will be some misses as well as the hits.

But despite the negatives the ambition should be admired. There are definitely enough positives to listen again and that ambition is something that bodes well for the future. The more they try and explore their sound, the more refined they’ll become, so I’m looking forward already to album number three.

Graeme Campbell

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