Flats // Better Living // June 4 // One Little Indian
East End’s Flats are four lads playing in a rock band. Spare me, you might say, Dalston has long been known as the hipster centre of Britain, an artistic cauldron that tends to create good left leaning bands that take themselves way to seriously before even writing more than two songs. Amazingly enough that has absolutely nothing to do with Flats because, you see, the guys are playing a combination of no wave and old school metalcore with some grind and doom thrown in for good measure. Doesn’t sound like the Dalston you know does it?
Flats have formed in 2010 and Better Living is their debut LP, yet for a lot of people it felt like it took ages to make. Just like Flats’ early material, their rise to something of a cult band in London was almost ridiculously quick. In their short existence they already supported people like Morrissey, The Horrors and Klaxons. Latter’s Jamie Reynolds produced Flats’ debut EP back in 2010 and now, after some line-up changes the lads are back for their debut LP. It might sound like an overwhelmingly rapid development for a band like Flats who don’t have a single ounce of commercial appeal in them. Here’s the catch: the lead singer Dan Devine just happens to be the son of Alan McGee, yes, that Alan McGee. It’s obvious to state that everyone went crazy and instantly wrote Flats off as an industry band with some serious connections and backing. Devine was sent to prison a couple of months ago for drug abuse and his dad’s message makes it clear than not all is happy in the family. Better Living mirrors that as it stands as one of the darkest and most nihilist records to come out in Britain this year.
But this time let’s do it properly. Forget all the family drama, possible connection and the rest of that bullshit. Better Living, recorded over the last summer in Hackney, deserves to be judged on its own merit as it is one of the most confronting albums to come out this year over this side of the pond. Better Living stretches things out when compared to their speed metal leaning early material. Some moments on here like Foxtrot and Moonwalk have properly slow moments that land somewhere between doom atmosphere and old school Sabbath riffs. 5 out of 12 songs on here are named after dance moves but Better Living isn’t some sort of crossover into dance territory, if anything it plays by the rules a bit too much considering just how punk it might act. It’s a collection of punk songs that lean heavily on varied branches of metal. To confirm where they stand, Flats even included a cover of Hellhammer’s Crucifixion. It’s also one of the best tracks on here as a lot of Better Living prefer noise over, well, anything else. Tracks like Tango and Buzz lack something that would lift them above the really amateurish branch of try-hard punk where attitude is more important than music. Luckily that’s not the case with Flats who seem to be openminded enough to evolve. Devine spends the album screaming mercilessly and there’s not a single line on here that I could make out. He says he wants to make music that would piss off their listeners’ parents. Better Living will do just that as it’s a cacophonic noise ball that crushes everything around it.
Wherever you stand on Dan Devine and his family situation, you can’t write off Flats as a bunch of posers. They know what they like, they know what they want to do and on Better Living they accomplish it with energy that is rare to British guitar music as of late. They might be sticking to the blueprint sound a bit too closely and are too bratty to offer more than a couple of ideas on here but that only puts the cherry on top of Better Living’s cake. It’s a record that gives zero fucks and does what it wants to do even if it doesn’t impress you. From a band hailing from Hackney, that is quite an achievement nowadays. And hey, don’t kid yourself, it’s not like Better Living doesn’t piss on everyone else who wants the title of Britain’s rock album of 2012.