The LaFontaines have a bit of a reputation for being a rowdy mob, and their debut full length release, Class, seems to embody their nature. Not quite rock and not quite pop. Sort of punk, but also hip hop. The guys from Scotland blend a whole lot of influences to create their own sound, which is characterised often by heavy riffs, rapping verses laded with attitude, and soaring choruses.
This is music that grabs your focus from the very first grungy undertone of the guitar in the opening track Slow Elvis and keeps you pumped up throughout the album’s duration. The LaFontaines are a tight but expressive unit and they manage to put their own persona into a number of different styles of music. Under The Storm (the first single to appear on the album) gives off a punk sort of vibe, while Class skims close to that melodic ringing guitar sound U2 are famous for, and we also hear indie rock sounds in Window Seat and stripped back fragile vocals with piano on the closer Pull Me Back.
What makes The LaFontaines really stand out though is how the instrumentation fuses neatly with the effortless but spirited rapping and the melodic vocal hooks in choruses and bridges. It doesn’t matter whether the guitars are clean and droning with reverb, or heavy and fast with overdrive, the addition of the melodic and rhythmic vocals as separate instruments themselves is pretty much always seamless.
Few of the tracks demonstrate this more immediately than King, another of Class’s singles. Held together with a simple recurring riff and heavy rumbling bass, it features Kerr Okan on vocals spitting out lyrics like it is completely second nature to him. The lyrics also have an underlying sense of struggle and identity: “And I swam against the ocean tide/And turned that ocean to a river like the fucking Clyde where I reside.” When the chorus comes in, which, by contrast is melodic and in the upper register, it’s kind of like a tag-team switch: two completely different characters, both work effectively towards a common goal, and together they get there.
Class is an album that exudes serious attitude but stops short of being in your face. Tracks that are a bit more laid back like All She Knows and Castles balance well against the more intense and frenzied numbers like Junior Dragon and provide a depth and complexity to the album that will have you coming back to listen over and over.