Other Lives’ Rituals is as mixed a bag as they come. The record does contain some singularly impressive tracks, and indeed the best work of the bands’ career to date can be found here. There are moments of true greatness on Rituals, but there are also shortcomings that are nigh on impossible to ignore.
It’s unsurprising that Other Lives have spent time on the road with Radiohead: the shadow of Thom Yorke et al hangs heavy over Rituals. Album opener Fair Weather could easily be an Amnesiac B-side, and the debt it owes to that record is so pronounced that it comes to feel flat and repetitive. It’s Not Magic and Pyramids suffer from a similarly bad case of Radioheaditis, the latter most obviously. The song title is three characters away from a Radiohead track, and the unabashed way it evokes the sound of that genre-defining band makes it a reductive tune. Homage can work if handled correctly, but things can get out of hand when a band begins to ape another to the extent Other Lives do on Rituals.
But – and, this is a very significant but – when Other Lives shake off their debt to Yorke and co, they prove they have the ability to turn in deeply moving, deeply inventive work. New Fog features dense, eccentric instrumentation, and powerful vocals. It brilliantly showcases the band’s genuine talents, and demonstrates what they can do when on form.
English Summer is another triumph. It’s a whimsical number in the best sense of the word – airy but emotive, it’s a breezy, heartfelt wonder. The jagged, jaunty Easy Way Out works too, but in an entirely different way; it’s a twisty trip down the rabbit hole, and the myriad of left-turns the track makes are deeply satisfying. It’s almost impossible to review Rituals as a whole, then. Tracks like the largely unmemorable No Trouble sit side by side with For The Last, a brilliant, complex song that combines paranoid, edgy riffs with Jesse Tabish’s beautiful vocals.
The bottom line is this: Rituals is worth a listen. When it works, it works beautifully. But the record’s low points are too pronounced and prevalent to make this one the great album it could have almost been. A shame indeed.