Albums of the Year (#6): Battles – Gloss Drop
They don’t call Ian Williams ‘The Ice Man’ for nothing. In fact they don’t call him that at all, but they probably should. I mean, he’s always been a gum-chewin’, sharp-shootin’ badass, but Battles – and Williams in particular – definitely seem to have more of an easygoing confidence about them since they became a three-piece.
“The dynamic on the road is better now. There's less friction,” says Williams. In fact, given the quality and vitality of the music recorded for Gloss Drop, the departure of Tyondai Braxton may soon seem like little more than a footnote in the history of a band that’s currently sounding as hungry and excited as a dog in a kebab shop. “I don't think it's about whether we’re a 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 piece,” he continues, “it's about whether you're good or not. Any line-up can work if you do it right.”
Powerhouse drummer John Stanier is equally practical: “I wouldn't say it has brought us closer personally, but musically it has opened up much more space which I think we react to.” It’s this sense of expanded horizons; of the gleeful awareness of their collective potential, that makes Gloss Drop feel special. Experimental without being hard work; brazenly rocking without ever venturing anywhere near a cliche – it’s not just an immensely rewarding record, it’s a hell of a lot of fun too.
It’s this perceived sense of fun, however, that seems to be something of a sticking point for Williams: “I generally zone out when it comes to responses, but I think there's been a misperception about the album being really pop. We had a departing member and then a new element of these guest singers. So that put people’s attention towards the new thing, which was "songs" with singing, and that led people to sum up the record as a pop record – which I think misses the point of the record. If you listen to songs like Wall Street, Inchworm or White Electric, those are songs that stretch out further than Battles ever went.”
And the future? “I think our process will always be evolving. We learned a lot of things about ourselves this year, and I think we can do that again in a new way. Whatever will keep it from feeling too familiar. Familiarity breeds complacency.”
Wise words, Ice Man. Wise words.