After a five year hiatus, Dublin based Bouts have harkened back to when they were regulars on the Irish music scene, circa 2013, and gifted us with a long awaited second album. Flow is the result of two years of intercontinental songwriting and recording, as the lads are now spread across Dublin, London and Amsterdam. But has the maturity and cultural expansion added to the creative and musical process?
Barry Bracken (vocals, guitar), Colin Boylan (guitar, vocals), Niall Jackson (bass, vocals) and Daniel Flynn (drums, percussion) have nurtured a sound that’s familiar and comforting in its ‘90s inspired indie pop rock that has transcended to their second album, despite the passage of time and evolving musical trends.
Flow launches us right back into Bouts appreciation. As if they never left us. The record is a nine track, easy listen that begins rather innocuously but develops into a strong body of melody and songwriting that the guys have clearly been harnessing during their time off. In essence, it’s the same Bouts we know and love. For new listeners, if the genres of guitar-led indie, pop and punk mean anything to you, Flow will be an instant hit. Complete with simple but effective melodies, layered (and extremely well honed) riffs and deft basslines.
The album begins with ‘Stop Pushing’, as soft vocals and a heady bassline – combined with a gorgeous guitar harmony reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ hook – make for a welcoming opener.
Three songs in and we are greeted with one of the album’s singles ‘Loves Lost Landing (pt 1)’, with an infectious and bright intro that recurs throughout. It later develops into several variants of the same melody, using different textures and range, showing the subtle complexities and effectiveness of a style which is, at face value, so simple.
The second of Flow’s singles is ‘Face Up’ is truly the upbeat stomper of the album. At a fast-paced yet steady tempo, its melodic verses explode into the percussion-heavy and shouty vocals of the chorus to the lyrics ‘Face up, head down, roll around’ which are almost shouted with multiple layers of vocals singing without harmony.
‘Big Reveals’ has a rough-around-the-edges appeal with more distortion apparent in the guitar and a slightly more aggressive style of singing with a spiralling chorus that leads us into ‘Loves Lost Landing (pt 2)’. Each track here is more addictive and catchy than the next.
‘Loves Lost Landing (pt 2)’ has that same bright and upbeat sound that its prequel conveys, complete with Beach Boys-like backing vocals. The record’s closing track ‘Moving Fast and Slow’ is the closest the album gets to a ballad, with the words “Moving slow and fast at the same time’ opening and closing the song (and album) to finish proceedings with a delicate, perfect cadence.
In the five years since Nothing Good Gets Away, Bracken, Boylan, Jackson and Flynn have literally and figuratively spread their wings. By scattering across the continent, they are no longer just a Dublin band, but they’ve maintained more than enough of that charm. A well versed and skilled foursome, Bouts have created a fun, fast moving and melodic second album with an abundance of beautifully crafted hooks that remind you of just how effective and charming a this sound can be. Shannon McNamee