Album Review: Family Bike – Everything You Owned Is Anagrammed

While Family Bike may be a new band, that doesn’t mean you won’t recognise the sound and style, especially if you’ve kept your ears to the ground over the last twelve months. That’s because Karl Kuehn makes up half of Family Bike, and as a man with an unmistakable vocal style with noisy indie rockers Museum Mouth, it means ‘Everything You Owned Is Anagrammed’ has an air of familiarity about it. In this case, however, familiarity does not breed contempt.

Instead, it serves as a gateway to the delights of Family Bike; an easy access point from which to jump in and get lost in the duo’s weird and wonderful world. The result is one of the most understatedly brilliant albums of the year.

Everything You Own Is Anagrammed by Family Bike

It doesn’t make it easy for you though. Opener ‘Big Diction’ is a ramshackle lo-fi punk blast at odds with the rest of the record. Only 45 seconds long it’s a noisy, thrashy blitzkrieg bop. Almost tuneless, it crashes along like an unstructured, angry ramble set to music. It’s bewildering but also sharp enough to knock you to your senses. After a few listens you can appreciate it as a bit of fun and it certainly shouldn’t detract from what follows, because after that ‘Everything You Owned Is Anagrammed’ is a joyous celebration of warm indie-pop wrapped in a deliciously fuzzy lo-fi aesthetic.

Both ‘The Best Sleep’ and ‘Idiot Boy’ are prime examples. The former a galloping, knockabout indie-punk blast which recalls the angularity of Desaparecidos but never strays far from having a bloody big hook and a brilliant guitar line, while the latter is somewhat more sedate but no less engaging. Instead, Kuehn’s vocals get to take centre stage. Plaintive and pleading, he can throw in a huge amount of personality into his delivery, even though it feels semi-spoken at times.

And, while these two tracks are both excellent, they’re not a patch on the spectacular ‘Heat Rash’ or ‘Places’. ‘Heat Rash’ comes armed with more hooks than a pirate ship and is a spectacularly infectious toe-tapper, while ‘Places’ throws up the album’s first real huge sing-along. Again, it sounds like it’s been forged in a basement, but that only adds to the homespun appeal of Family Bike. Throw in some brilliantly bittersweet lyrics (“my goldfish has reached the end of its life” a personal favourite) and a raucous ending and you have yourself a real winner.

Then, just when you think you’ve got Family Bike licked, they drop ‘How I Survived November’. Swirling keyboard sounds abound, in what is a minimal take on the blueprint established on the previous five songs. It gives the album space to breathe and shows there’s more to Family Bike than straight-up punk-tinged indie-pop songs.

After that, they’re back to business though. If you’re on board, the spiky ‘Nobody’s Business’ is a clear winner. If you require further convincing, then ‘When You’re Young’ is the second huge sing-along packed with huge melodies and hooks and some killer wry lyrics – “Remember when I hated Sugar Ray? Now I listen to them every day” the pick of the bunch.

In truth there’s not a bad song on ‘Everything You Owned Is Anagrammed’. Even when the pace drops over the final three songs, the quality still remains spectacularly high. ‘Kith and Kin’ is a gorgeous mid-paced torch song, while ‘Dylan’s Room’ is pure lo-fi garage rock which showcases Kuehn’s skill as a lyricist. Just to mix things up, they end with the brooding ‘Carson Daly’, which drags their sound out to an impressive 6 minutes. It could have been torturous; instead it works perfectly, building to a fitting end on what is a delightful album packed with charm and character. Seek it out, you won’t be disappointed.


‘Everything You Owned Is Anagrammed’ by Family Bike is out now on Negative Fun/Egghunt Records

Family Bike links: Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp

Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)

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