Monday, March 11, 2013

Making Math Rock Accessible: A Review of TTNG's

Approachable is a word I rarely use to describe a math rock band like TTNG, but here we are. TTNG's music is a gentle mix of soulful light-rock tones with high-velocity guitar picking and uncommon time signatures. Their new album,, metaphorically holds your hand while it eases you into their mathematical technicality.

TTNG, originally This Town Needs Guns, formed their initial quad ensemble in 2004. Hailing from the British town of Oxford, the band took on the name This Town Needs Guns in an attempt to be ironic, as not even the police were allowed to carry guns there. Following the release of, the band officially changed their name to TTNG due to their growing international appeal.
In a statement from their website, "However, eight years on, things have changed. With our music now finding new cultures, the irony of the name is no longer implicit. Also, in light of the controversy over gun ownership in the US as well as tragic shootings there and elsewhere in the world, we want to distance ourselves from a band name which we are now uncomfortable with."

It is indeed a new era for TTNG, as the Mayan calendar reference of the album cover expresses. TTNG is now a three member band consisting of original guitarist Tim Collis, Chris Collis on drums, and Henry Tremain as their new lead vocalist and Bassist/Guitarist. I recently discovered TTNG with the purchase of, so I can only provide a virgin impression of the current lineup here. does a fantastic job of giving math rock a pop rock approachability, namely due to the smooth overtones of Tremain's singing. The album also has a complimentary kind of give and take order to it's songs. They introduce themselves with approachable rhythms, followed by a testing of your ears with musical technicality, and just as it all starts to get "weird" they reward you with a soft ballad.

The first lure of is the single worthy "Cat Fantastic". This song has a great lightheartedness to it, despite the intricate guitar work underlying the verses and the odd time signature their drummer effortlessly works in. Seriously, could someone please tell me what time signature this song is in? I tried counting along, and I can't figure it out.

What follows is the first challenging listen of the album, the enigmatic "Havoc in the Forum". It's opening guitar work seems sporadic, until the drums come in to show you where the beat is at. It builds up to it's chorus, which in my opinion is still part of a build up to the real payoff of the bridge section at two minutes in. I struggle to describe music with words, but the syncopated riffs at the end of the bridge are stellar.

The album charges on to change it's direction and tone with "2 Birds, 1 Stone and an Empty Stomach". I'm a big believer in the "it's not how much you play, but when you choose not to play" concept in determining the musical maturity of a musician. Tim Collis proves his maturity here in how slow and smoothly he delivers on this acoustic ballad. This song, as well as it's surrounding "I'll Take the Minute Snake" and "Nice Riff Clichard", help break the building monotony of Tim Collis's fast-paced guitar picking. So many notes in such a short amount of time can wear a listener out, and the album gives its audience a soothing intermission before it picks back up with "Triptych", "A Different Kind of Tall(Small)", and my favorite piece off the album "+3 Awesomeness Repels Water".

It's a solid formula of invite, intrigue, and then reward. As a fan of math rock, I enjoyed for it's entirety. For new listeners to the genre, I whole-heartily recommend TTNG as your first venture into this rewarding world of triplets, scale modes, and time changes. Your musical enjoyment and understanding can only grow from here.

TTNG's Official Website
Purchase from Sargent House
Purchase on iTunes

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