Sound — 9
The various traits that have given The Bluetones their classic sound are intact for this effort Adam Devlin's dextrous arpeggios should see him revered alongside such other virtuosos as Johnny Marr and Peter Buck; Mark Morriss' lyrics remain as sharp as ever and his brother, bassist Scott, belts out harmonies Mike Mills would be proud of. The album harks back to the salad days of Expecting To Fly but combines it with a contemporary indie sound, and is a master class in tight, strong song writing.
Lyrics — 9
Morriss' has always remained an undervalued songwriter, and here he is at his lyrical best his bludgeoning wit and carefree abandon is all present and correct, especially in the album's stand out, Culling Song, in which Morriss says if this was a culling song, I'd tailor it to just one person', but here there's a new sense of maturity and perhaps a hint of depression, especially with the lines I still haven't learnt my lesson yet and I won't till I find out just how low I can get on the rollicking Carry Me Home, and to sleep, perchance to dream, this confusion...and never wake up on the bouncy Into the Red.
Overall Impression — 10
A New Athens is a joy from start to finish, with the band excelling themselves both musically and lyrically. Devlin's fretwork is a revelation throughout, particularly on Culling Song, while the band's knack for catchy hooks and knees-up choruses, such as Half the Size of Nothing, have become much more loose and effortless as they have grown to become such a tight, workmanlike outfit. Carry Me Home is what separates a comeback from a return, while the spacious feedback of the title track's intro is reminiscent of The Dandy Warhols' moody hit Godless. And indeed, the album's sense of maturity and loss alongside fun and love plus Morriss' acoustic being bought to the forefront of the mix make the album similar to Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, and of course, the album could also very nearly be an upbeat record by REM. All in all, those who have remained faithful to the band since day one will relish this return to form, and those discovering them for the first time will pray it's not another four years until the next record.