Augustines’ (formerly We Are Augustines) eponymous sophomore record has one fundamental strength and fundamental flaw. The writing on the album and the quality of the tracks is essentially very commendable and is its strength, yet the quality of the writing suffers the burden of over-production. The craftsmanship on Augustines suffers under layers and layers of different sounds, superfluous guitars, piano, drums and electronics that undermine and underwhelm Billy McCarthy’s vocals and lyrics and the talent of the band.
The name change to Augustines signals the start of the ‘rebirth’ that this record is supposed to explore. Particularly, the track Walkabout, with its slow start and euphoric second part is supposed to show the change in direction of Billy McCarthy and co from the melancholy of their debut to the optimism of this new record. However, many of the tracks, when drenched in reverb and crammed with overdubbed strings, organs, pianos and guitars still sound rather melancholy. The song titles themselves such as ‘Don’t Look Back’ and ‘Hold onto Anything’ sound rather cliché optimistic than honestly optimistic. Furthermore, because of the many overdubs that the majority of the tracks contain, the tracks feel overwhelming at times and the heavy effects on McCarthy’s vocals make the lyrics seem incomprehensible and the vocal melodies seem like vague shouts.
Fundamentally, the lyricism and musicianship on the tracks on Augustines are generally of high quality. However, even though the producer of the record, Peter Katis has worked with many great artists over the past ten years (Frightened Rabbit, The National, Interpol), his production on this album seems overwhelming. Assumingly, the combination of his production and the desire to achieve a huge stadium-rock sound by Augustines has led to a collection of tracks that attempt to fit a narrative of rebirth, yet this expression is overwhelmed by the constant heavy atmosphere and overdubs that many of the tracks contain, The Avenue being the exception.
By Thomas Willis