Bleed Like You –  Agency (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

You can’t say that Agency don’t have a great work ethic. It seems that just as the last offering of tunes are fading from my memory, and only leaving because I have so much music pushing up against them, a new selection of songs arrives to take their place. It’s an ironic thing that as the bigger bands out there in music industry land now seem to be leaving more and more years between album releases, artists best described as being part of the grass roots scene are taking fewer and fewer months to release their next creation. I don’t really care, I know where the music that best suits my tastes is found…it just seems a bit unfair, that’s all.

Bleed Like Me contains a number of songs I have heard before but rather than being a mere revisit to past glories it seems instead to be a wonderful collection of new songs, new versions, new visions and reimagined, remixed and reevaluated music from the back catalogue. But it is also much cleverer than that as familiar themes and motifs seem to freely jump from one song to another, lyrics from one song find their way into others, the album’s title becomes a recurring echo and many of the re-mixes take the songs into such new musical territory that they become wholly new creations in their own right. This is less a suite of songs, more a collection interlinked ideas, shifting sonic statements, streams of musical consciousness where the boundaries of lyrics, ideas, genre and even the start and end points of the songs themselves don’r quite marry up. Interesting to say the least.

The title track is a strange, deconstructed collection of early hip-hop influences, strange brass inclusions and warped R&B, and whilst that might sound unfocused and too experimental an idea to produce anything worthwhile, Agency is probably the only outfit that could juggle all those sounds and ideas and make them dovetail into each other to form something this addictive. At the other extreme the album revisits Human (from the Alarm album) but here it is a chilled acoustic pop rendering, understated, spacious and all the more emotive for it. Coffee (in) Chains is a clever bit of word play set to chiming dance-pop moves, Backwards is a brooding and skittish slice of futuristic R&B, soulful, dark and poignant and Do This Now is a funky brass blast, a James Brown groove cut and pasted, spliced and splintered and presented anew for a more discerning, more left field audience.

As always its a fascinating album, one that not only offered the usual platter of unique genre-hopping, addictive music and heart-felt lyrics, but one that sort of breaks down the wall of what songs can be. It argues that a song is never finish, that it can be re-appropriated, reappraised, rewritten to explore its full potential, even to the point that it becomes a whole new song. Great songs have that quality and Bleed Like You is nothing if not a collection of great songs.

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