The Distants' debut album Broken Gold is not pandering to any current fashion. It draws on classic alternative guitar bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth to reproduce a wall of sound of dense guitar. And then they throw a magnificent female vocalist into the mix.
They do a version of The Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary" and thankfully they do it straight – the powerful guitar sounds are probably even improved on. I don't have a copy of the song (The Cult were a bit rockist for me) so I'm very pleased and anyone who has a copy can just sit back admire the sheer affrontery and twist from having female vocals. And think about it, who would cover such a classic song unless they believed the rest of the material matched? The Distants don't lack confidence in their abilities.
For me, the songs that match "Sanctuary" are "Falling Apart", a majestic pop/rock work; "Apparent Silence" is like Blondie being ravaged by an evil horde of guitar heroes; and "The Following" is a stunning example of controlled noise – the prefect climax of an album. But what really impresses me is I am annoyed "Sanctuary" interrupts the flow of the album because that song has an inner response from me … and I would rather the excitement of listening to The Distants' own songs as their music buries itself deep under my skin.
The singer Guinevere doesn't have the range of Siouxie Sioux but does have that rock raspiness that Courtney Love exhibits, as well as the melodic charms of softer voiced female singers. She doesn't miss any notes even at full stretch and can move from sultry singing to an all out clarion call loud enough to wake the dead. The guitar, drums, and bass unit are magnificently able to make such dense aural attacks and stay tight.
When reviewing an album, I often make a comparison to a band even less people have heard of. In this case, I will say The Distants have come close to the sheer power and aural assault of another female fronted band, the now defunct Solar Race who made the astonishing Homespun back in 1997. With more feedback and more discord they might have matched it. Instead they have drawn back from the brink and added many pop and melodic elements that and could take them onto the iPods of a lot of people. By the time they produce their next album I expect them to be much too big to send me a copy for review.