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5 out of 10
When I was seventeen I loved the shit out of Hundred Reasons; in my eyes, those five guys form Surrey were one of the best bands ever. They could do no wrong. The first time I saw them they were opening for Idlewild and had only just released their first EP on Fierce Panda (remember them?). After that gig I was hooked. I bought everything they released, and I mean everything. CD singles, limited edition video tapes, 7"s, you name it, I bought it. Bear in mind this was when bands would release a single across three formats. That's two CDs and one 7" per single - why anyone would need that many copies is beyond me, but for some reason my seventeen year old self sought out anything and everything bearing the Hundred Reasons logo. By the time they got around to putting out their second album I had already lost interest, having moved onto more obscure, more pretentious music; I would never be caught dead listening to such questionable Brit-rock. Now as I enter the wrong side of my twenties, I can look back on my misled youth and admit that, yes, Hundred Reasons had quite a few decent songs, and I don't regret any of the ten or so times I saw them. Yep, ten times. I saw Hundred Reasons at least ten times. And you know what, I bet the members of Above Them saw Hundred Reasons way more times than me.
The debt these guys owe to Hundred Reasons cannot be understated. 'For Those Who Paved The Way' kicks off proceedings with a bit of feedback and the riff from 'I'll Find You' before a big "WOOAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH" from the singer and it goes all Something To Write Home About-era Get Up Kids then straight back into the Hundred Reasons riff. It's like they distilled my two favourite albums from when I was a teenager and someone how made a record which lacks any of the charisma or excitement that my teenage self loved. One thing that puzzles me about Above Them is their vocals - at times their vocalist slips into an American Rock voice, almost gruff but not quite, a bit like if the singer from Nickelback tried to sing like the guy from Hot Water Music. Affecting an American accent is fairly common from British rock bands, but given that at certain times he uses his normal accent, it does beg the question why he can't sing everything like he's from Wakefield, rather than trying to sound like he comes from the home of Classic American Rock.
Overall, Blueprint For A Better Time isn't bad, but is far from good. Unremarkable is what it is. Not quite punk enough, not quite poppy enough, not quite gruff enough; Above Them are destined to be an also-ran on the arse end of a scene, destined to always be the kind of band you see playing at an all dayer at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. In a way timing's been unfair to Above Them. Had they released this about four years ago, when Punktastic was a bigger player, when Out Of Spite was still going, even when Fracture was still being made, when every good DIY band in the country seemed to come from either Leeds or Wakefield, Blueprint For A Better Time would have a far more receptive audience, an audience ready to accept their somewhat average record. As it is, the window of opportunity for this kind of record has long closed and as such any potential for this to be thought of as more than just another average record in a sea of mediocrity has long passed.