Vintage Computing + Indie Rock = The British IBM

Back into the Green Man archives again for this review, published back in September (original post here). I was reminded of this one when a touring musician I was putting on recently stopped over in Swindon, and to occupy himself made a few museum visits, including one to a computing museum I didn’t even know was there! He surfaced with lots of amazing pictures of vintage computers and consoles later that day, happy as a pig in muck! It took me right back to my days messing around with one of the first home computers, feelings that were further kindled recently reading the news that the developers of the game I spent most of my time on (Elite, it was genius!) were going to try and make a modern version. Anyway, I digress, this is a music blog, not a computing one, so back to the other connection between music and vintage computing (there will be more about that touring musician soon!)!

It can take the oddest things to make a band stand out and demand to be heard. And in the case of The British IBM it was the rather unusual band name. It turns out it was taken from a quote from comedy-drama Micro Men which was about early British home computing rivals Sinclair and Acorn, (essentially the British equivalent of Apple v Microsoft?). As someone who experienced childhood in the 1980’s and was a faithful ZX Spectrum owner, this story piqued my interest enough to give the album a spin.

But, the question is, does the music sound like it comes from a ZX Spectrum game? Thankfully no, it does not. Rather than the irritatingly catchy beeps of Manic Miner you get what is pretty much akin to a tour round 25 odd years of indie guitar music. Band leader Aidy is as much a fan of indie as he is of vintage computing it appears (even the album artwork is a circuit board diagram).  However, rather than ending up as a muddle of different styles the band have somehow managed to imbue things with an individuality and identity that has a singular voice running through it. So, even though we get laidback indie in Animal, upbeat indie in Sugar Water, a proper indie anthem in Open Your Eyes, hints of baggy Manchester swagger in 3 Years and Blur-esque balladry on Is it Too Late to Save Oscar Pike? (you get the picture) it does all sound like the one band.

The final question is; is it any good? Well yes, on the whole this is a solid and interesting record. Obviously there is the variety in sound that keeps your ears fresh. The vocal style is mellow, the hooks catchy and the beats pound away in marching time. The track Cannibal is a particular highlight, with its fuzzy grunge guitar riff and John Maclane Die Hard tribute lyric! However, it does just lack a kind of sparkle, that magic of originality that would elevate it beyond being a very good album and push it into the excellent category.

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