For a band who have been so roundly dismissed as ‘landfill indie,’ the Pigeon Detectives have got an awful lot to show for it. Both of their albums ‘Wait For Me’ (2007) and ‘Emergency’ (2008) have peaked in the UK Album Chart’s Top 5 and they’ve collectively spawned five Top 40 singles. Furthermore, the band have sold-out a prestigious show at London’s Alexandra Palace and played to 14,000 people over two nights at Leeds’ Millennium Square. That’s not to mention appearing on virtually every festival stage and TV show going.
It’s the sort of landfill that most bands can only dream of being buried in. “I think at first, we were a little offended by the term,” admits singer Matt Bowman in hindsight. “It seemed to happen more often as we got more successful but we’re not bitter. Whatever was said doesn’t take away what we’ve achieved. It won’t take away the platinum discs on our walls.”
Indeed, the fact that the Pigeon Detectives have stuck around long enough to actually record a third album is a testament to their ability to endure all inaccurate labels and disparaging comments. But what’s even more impressive is the fact that[Not a valid template] clearly marks the start of an entire new phase of creativity for the Yorkshire five-piece.
In a stark contrast to the quick-fire record and release of the first two albums,[Not a valid template] was written and recorded over the space of 18 months. “The first album felt like a collection of singles and the second one was more a case of putting out what we had at the time,” adds the frontman. “This time, there was a lot more quality control. We wrote 40 songs, got rid of 20, recorded 20 and then chose the best ten. It’s a real album rather than just a collection of songs.”
For recording, the band decamped to New York City spending two months laying down the lion’s share of the album with producer Justin Gerrish (who’s last major job was helping to mix Vampire Weekend’s massively successful ‘Contra’).
While they were there, the group settled into New York life and soaked up the sounds, the sights and the overall creative spirit of the city on a daily basis, feeding it into the developing album as they went. Of course, all work and no play makes Matt a dull boy and the singer wryly admits that the group found other ways to entertain themselves too; “You can’t spend two months in New York without having a few good times and getting into a bit of bother, can you?”
But every band and their mother returning from a long lay-off will inevitably spout rehearsed lines about how they’ve “matured” or “upped their game.” Don’t take Bowman’s word for it- just spend a few seconds listening to the suave electro-rhythms and scything Strokes-riffs that combine on the album’s opening track ‘She Wants Me’.
It only takes as long as those opening three and a half minutes to realize that the raggedly charming indie rock band we once knew have developed into something far slicker and sexier. It’s a new streak of invention that’s maintained throughout the album; the intricate guitar interplay on ‘Through The Door’ for example is good enough to give Interpol a few things to think about while the closing track ‘I Don’t Know You’ infuses woozy organ parts with juddering break beats into one of the most elegant and daringly ambitious things the band have yet concocted.
Yet through all this, the Pigeon Detectives knack for melody remains firmly in place and you can bet your life that[Not a valid template] will be adding a few more hits to the band’s haul of Top 40 singles in the months to come.
It’s not just the sonic side that The Pigeon Detectives have worked hard to improve. Lyrically, the album marks another clear growth that Bowman feels was probably overdue. “With the other albums, I might repeat verses or just come up with stuff right before I had to sing the vocal,” he remembers. “But on this album, the whole band helped out. We all identified the lyrics as an area that needed improving so instead of putting the responsibility just on to me and Oliver, everybody chipped in.
There’s one song (‘What You Gonna Do’) that was actually inspired by the banking crisis and seeing people cueing up around the corner to get their savings out of Northern Rock. But that’s still something that everyone can relate to because everyone saw it happen. We still write songs about the everyday when it comes down to it. It’s just that with this album, we’ve taken a more measured approach rather than the testosterone fuelled lyrics of the first two albums.”
But for all the changes and improvements, The Pigeon Detectives have retained the same heart and soul that made us love them in the first place. They’re still the same gang of close friends who live within a few streets of each other, they still want to write songs that connect with the lives of their fans, and they still want to give 200% when it comes to playing live.
A fact that’s reflected in the Twitter buzz that developed when news broke of the band’s impending return. “I think there’s been a lack of our kind of band at the minute- the kind that puts everything into our show,” concludes Matt. “We’ve definitely got a new found hunger for being in the Pigeons after the time we’ve had away. When we did the first two albums, there was no time to reflect and sometimes, all you wanted to do was to sit down, watch Sky Sports news and have a bit of rest. Now we’ve had a bit of that in the last couple of years, you realize you want to be a rock star again.”
And with an album like[Not a valid template] behind them, being rock stars is likely to be the least of The Pigeon Detectives forthcoming achievements.
Official website www.thepigeondetectives.com