The quickest and easiest path (to plan, if not to actually execute) towards musical recognition is to fill a specific niche. The more particular and distinct your sound, the better: it’s not a surefire method to achieving musical success (bad news: there is no such method), but doing something nobody has ever really heard before – at least on the level of a band putting forth a certain sound – certainly helps further your band and your brand a lot easier than just following a trend or painting within the lines.
Case in point: it’s because of their particularity that TTNG (formerly known as This Town Needs Guns) has had no trouble cultivating a huge fanbase, because there’s not really any other band out there that sounds quite like they do. Occupying that liminal space between math rock and emo, their sound is full of off-time tapped guitar riffs, wavering vocals, and polyrhythmic drumming, all syncopated to form melancholic-yet-playful soundscapes that wax and wane in emotional intensity throughout. Carving their own niche to fill has given them a lot of room to play around with their sound while never having to reinvent themselves, and on Disappointment Island, that freedom of expression is fully realized to make an album that shines with a clear eye for detail and a love for the music.
Clocking in three years after their last release, Disappointment Island is a treat for fans of the group’s previous output, even if it’s not the most likely candidate for bringing a rush of new fans into the fold. Although it’s not the most adventurous in its methodology or how it expands on the established TTNG playbook, Disappointment Island doesn’t really need to venture too far from what the band has done in the past to be a compelling, enjoyable listen. The trio sounds as tight as ever here – as they should, given that everything was tracked to tape in two sessions, so they have these songs down like nobody’s business – and the songs are certainly up to snuff with the quality of the rest of their discography, both in writing and performance thereof.
So, what is different this time around? On the surface, not much: this is TTNG doing TTNG, and even though it’s obvious they’re still very invested in their sound and writing engaging music, anybody who’s listened to them in the past will find immediate familiarity in the structuring of tracks and the overall sound of the record. Digging deeper, though, one notices some curious traits about Disappointment Island, namely, the way the guitars and bass play off of each other much more than they have in the past. Tim Collis’ guitar work isn’t as technical as past output; he’s chosen to eschew the occasionally-overwhelming approach of Animals and 18.104.22.168.0 in favor of (slightly) simpler passages that allow Henry Tremain’s bass to shine through, and the increased interaction between the two instruments makes for a much more approachable listen that clicks faster than their previous efforts.
Bear in mind, though, this is still classic TTNG through and through. Slight changes to the overall formula are just that: a few tweaks here, a few wrinkles ironed out there. Fans will find the same band they fell in love with in a pretty similar state as they have been – for better or for worse – and those who haven’t enjoyed the band before probably won’t find anything to change their mind here. All of this being said, though, for fans of TTNG’s trademark sound, Disappointment Island is an enjoyable, if somewhat predictable, romp through the same territory one has always found the band cavorting in, well-written from start to finish and chock-full of the emotionally-charged, melancholic moments that make these guys so worthwhile.