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REVIEW - Anywhere But Now - 'Utopia' (Album)

North-East band Anywhere But Now have a tale that may be familiar to a number of outfits - their younger selves formed a band, played some gigs, recorded a CD and elicited some record label interest before things petered out - jobs, mortgages and family came first. Getting back together in 2018, they started recording some tracks for an EP which gradually became an album and here it is - the varied and entertaining 'Utopia'. Just when you think you have a handle on a song, a change in pace or atmosphere keeps you guessing which is what makes this album of essentially well-crafted alt-rock numbers an engrossing listen; the band - Simon Shaw (Vocals), Matthew Shaw (Guitar), Mark Bell (Bass) and Mark Nichol (Drums) - have certainly put a lot of thought into the tracks on 'Utopia'.

Kicking off with the Foo Fighters like 'Photograph' with its arpeggio guitar opening expanding into an anthemic chorus, the song takes a turn into a more aggressive middle eight with even a touch of metalcore present before returning to the soaring chorus and a jagged, rushing ending. 'Heaven Help Me' with its gently pulsing verses and galloping choruses is next leading into the choppy, yet commercial guitars of 'Stand Up' - single material! 'Fire To Gold' again returns to Foo Fighters influences but goes 'off grid' in the middle eight - all breathy vocals and chiming guitars supported by supple bass and crashing cymbals along with plenty of tempo changes in its 5:53 duration. 'Everlasting' is a slow, evocative tune that veers into something heavier, again mixing chiming guitars in the verses with distorted choruses and building up to a driving ending, before the title track (a short acoustic tune) leads into 'Blue Water', a riffy, pounding number with great vocal harmonies. 'Palliate' is a soaring track with changes in tempo before the album pulls out its two most hooky tunes with the catchy, insistent 'Dreamcaster' and its touches of U2 and prog and the great choruses and danceability of 'Throw It Away'. The album ends with the ballad-like 'Heaven Help Me Pt 2' bringing the album to an acoustic and satisfying close.

'Utopia' has much to commend it and Anywhere But Now's inventive musical arrangements makes the album much more than the standard alt-rock / rock album it could have been. Each member has much to bring to the record - Simon Shaw's soaring vocals, Mark Shaw's versatile and expansive guitar work, Mark Bell's supple driving bass and Mark Nichol's powerhouse (yet flexible) drumming - and they coalesce together expertly on the ten full length numbers to produce bright, varied tuneage. I've given the album a number of listens now and its tunes gradually insinuate themselves to make up an enjoyable and impressive album. Great cover artwork too!

'Utopia' is out on October 27th on all the major streaming sites.

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