A Sum of Parts
This is a dangerous game being played. The eyes of the indie world have fixated their horn-rimmed gaze upon Minor Victories, closely scrutinizing their every motion, and with good reason. On paper, Minor Victories is one of the most promising acts in recent memory, each member pulled from a band of legendary stature in their own realm, Justin Lockey of Editors, Rachel Goswell of Slowdive, Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, and Director James Lockey. The mere combination of those names should be enough to weaken the knees of anyone well versed in 90s “indie” and it certainly did create ripples of excitement throughout today’s music boards. On their first release Minor Victories, Minor Victories sets out to prove that the excitement is warranted and that their band is more than just an exciting notion, ultimately coming back with more questions than answers.
One of the first issues one notices with Minor Victories is its lack of cohesion. Each song seems to pick one style from each members more well-known band and uses that element to carry each song, this is especially notable in “Folk Arp,” which is essentially Mogwai lite. The ending crescendo rips across the track with an unrelenting intensity, but still retains that intangible sense of yearning and urgency that permeates so much of Mogwai’s more iconic tracks. In this way, the track remains engaging, but one can only be left to wonder how much more exciting and vibrant each song could have been had each member contributed more equally to each track. “Out to Sea” carries the same issues and benefited but is more indicative of Slowdive’s work, the track floats along with an ethereal presence as Goswell’s voice, siren-like, beckons from beyond the fog luring us to sail farther from shore. These tracks are difficult to truly criticize as they are wonderful and enjoyable on their own, but within the context of the album and with the expectations lobbied against the band, it’s difficult to see this album as much more than a beautiful disappointment.
The major issue plaguing Minor Victories is the lack of a unified vision throughout the record. Each song is enjoyable on its own, but when the products are put together they fail to enhance each other in any meaningful way. Songs like the ethereal “Out to Sea” follow the rambling, folky storytelling of Mark Kozelek on “For You Always,” a track that even on an album of out of place tracks seems woefully out of its element. The creators of the album have noted that they never once all breathed the same air or sat together to create each song, leaving a sort of cold lifelessness to many of the tracks. The sterility of the album borders on unforgivable as both Slowdive and Mogwai thrived on creating cripplingly beautiful and emotional songs. For that passion to be notably absent from many of the tracks on Minor Victories is disappointing beyond words.
Minor Victories is not a bad album and Minor Victories is not a bad idea, but at the end of the day Minor Victories falls victim to the same issues that have plagued nearly every supergroup in existence. The songs and people present in them not only fail to live up to each band members previous material, but also fail to use each influence in unique and engaging ways, instead opting to travel down the well worn paths that they had established as opposed to creating something new. Minor Victories is a sum of its parts and nothing more or less, nearly every song is pleasant on some level but never scratches or even disrupts the incredibly high ceilings from each members previous band. Minor Victories is then best summed up by band member Stuart Braithwaite who said, “To be honest, I think if you know the music that all of us have made, it won’t really surprise you.” It does everything you expect it to and never surprises you in any way, leaving you pleased, but with a lingering desire for what could have been.