Feeling oddly like equal parts disaffected new wave and wide-eyed prog but nevertheless 100 percent ‘80s, The Week That Was is deceptively large despite its modest ambitions. And not simply by virtue of the anywhere-from-nine-to-13 members on any one track. No, often, it plays like the backing band behind a very curious, wordless modern morality play, full of suggestion but ultimately ambiguous.
Measured restraint is the key here. Each track plainly lays out a rhythm, usually highly syncopated, gradually adds melodies, vocals and then starts layering harmonies in preparation for a dramatic, if coy, chorus. It’s a formula that somehow borders the Joy Division and Rush, shifting its weight from one extreme to another as suits The Week That Was’ purposes.
It almost seems silly in its shameless retro style (and in some points, it does, like you’re listening to the new Squeeze record and it’s fantastic!). Interestingly, however, for all the nine lives behind The Week That Was, there’s a very specific alienation to the album, particularly in the early part. You get the feeling that two guys with synths, a bass player and a guitarist, all with bad haircuts, are behind all this, but it’s not the case.
The humanity doesn’t come through all the time, but the clever songwriting does.