Review: Banner Pilot- Souvenir

Posted: April 29, 2014 in Reviews

Souvenir cover art

Good old dependable Banner Pilot, eh? Instead of completely re-inventing themselves with each album, they do what they know best. They have their own style. All four Banner Pilot albums are distinctly their own, and are all at least 8/10s in my book. How many bands can you say that about? Despite their ‘sound’, they do evidence progression on each album; moving forward with greater ambition and further experimentation. Indeed, Souvenir sounds pretty different in a lot of ways to their first LP Resignation Day, when looking back on it now. This version of Banner Pilot is cleaner, catchier and has more bite.

Having said that, Souvenir feels less confined, the ‘freest’ they have sounded, while being less immediate and more melodically subtle than its predecessor Heart Beats Pacific. You will find no ‘Spanish Reds’ or ‘Division Street’ here. But the melodies and catchy verses will reveal themselves after a few listens. The emphatic chorus to ‘Hold Fast’, for instance, is among their best ever, while the verses of ‘Dead Tracks’ bleed with melody. It helps that Banner Pilot are now trying slower tempo songs. I am now talking the mid-tempo punk songs, which Banner Pilot have perfect over the last couple of albums; I mean, properly slow moments. Listen to the verses of ‘Colfax’ or the opening moments of ‘Summer Ash’. Definitely the slowest tempo stuff Banner Pilot have attempted. And it works, making the choruses all that more powerful. Breaking the 5 minute mark with ‘Summer Ash’ makes it all the more interesting. This is Dear You territory. Of course, in these songs, the band eventually kick the gear up a few notches and let rip with a high-tempo chorus (with ‘Colfax’ being the obvious example of this). It would be pretty cool to see how Banner Pilot got on with a song which was slow-tempo throughout. Maybe in a couple of albums time, we will know.

Thematically, we are on similar ground with Souvenir: Banner Pilot invite us into a world of back alleys, dive bars and fading dreams, where the bleak winters are soul-crushing. But, amid the bleakness, what Banner Pilot have always had, and which many of their contemporaries don’t, is hope; the sun parting through the clouds. And there is bucket-loads here. I’m not sure whether it is the lighter melodies tricking me, but Souvenir seems to be Banner Pilot’s most positive record so far. This isn’t just false hope; Banner Pilot are full of confidence: “This world we’re in can do its worst/ It’ll never win” (‘Hold Fast’). The closer of ‘Summer Ash’ meanwhile recalls the romantic storytelling of ‘Skeleton Key’: “So turn down all the dark days; Kill this night/ New page, all the blue skies we could write”. But, in many ways, Banner Pilot’s lyrics have transformed a lot from the early days. Compare simply the lyrics from Souvenir to Resignation Day and they could almost be from two different bands. The new style is more hard-hitting and direct, while still retaining the poetic, romantic core. This is most obviously seen in the Blink 182-like ‘Shoreline’, where Banner Pilot talk about being feeling “so disconnected”, and ask a question Off With Their Heads posed more vociferously a few years previous: “How much can one kid take before he’s had enough?” And that kind of sums up the Banner Pilot of Souvenir: familiar, but evolving.


Take a listen:


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