I Like Trains – Kompromat: Album Review

I Like Trains release their first new album in eight years. Kompromat is an album about the times we live in.

Released: August 21st 2020 with physical release date of 25th September 2020

Label: Atlantic Curve

Format: CD / LP / Digital

If the last few years of Brexit, Trump and Covid have left you teetering on the edges of despair then this is maybe not the record for you right now. Disclaimer over, if you would rather face up to all the nonsense by taking it by the throat and giving it both vitriolic barrels then the first record in 8 years from the Leeds noise-bandits might just be just the thing you didn’t know you were looking for. If that thing is like taking a post-punk gong bath with James O’Brien.

The starting point for this record came way back in 2013 with Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. “An I LIKE TRAINS record doesn’t really start to take shape until there’s a theme”, explains vocalist David Martin, “We didn’t set out to write a record about current affairs, but the path we set out on converged drastically with that daily discourse. The album inadvertently became about populist politics across the world. Brexit, Trump, Cambridge Analytica and covert Russian influence ended up at the centre of it all” And in the very special darkness of 2020, these unsettling themes have taken on an extra level of potency, where grappling with seemingly certain concepts like ‘reality’ are tested by our political overlords on an hourly basis.

I Like Trains have never shied away from addressing the physical dangers and philosophical entanglements of the modern world. This is an album that attacks from the outset. Opener ‘A Steady Hand’ goes straight for the jugular of the current incumbent of the Oval Office – ‘I am the president. I am the overfed, bigoted son of an immigrant’ snarls Martin. On ‘Desire Is A Mess’ he snarls  – ‘I’ve been making a purse from this sow’s ear for as long as I can remember’. And on it goes. Sonically eviscerating and emotionally uncompromising, it is post-punk waterboarding for a totalitarian future.

‘New Geography’ offers the first hint of a musical (if not a lyrical) loosening of the vitriolic thumbscrews. This could, somewhat unexpectedly, have come off any recent album by The National. The dark synths are lifted and replaced by lightly soaring strings. But the respite is brief. The krautrock-stylings are back on album centrepiece ‘The Truth’, which finds Martin hypnotically ranting on that concept over a sprawling 6 minute cacophony of electronic rage. 

One review described this album as the ‘musical equivalent of the Mueller Report’ but it should not be so easily dismissed. Listen carefully and you might just find that the voices of such musical outsiders are as vital as they’ve ever been.

Watch the video for Dig In from I Like Trains below.

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