Manchester’s Polytechnic are not some rave act from the nineties, nor a school devoted to retraining laid-off steelworkers, but a fresh new slice of indie-pop from England’s ‘Capital of the North’, out with their debut LP, Down Til Dawn. This wouldn’t be the first time Northern England has given us some shiny, catchy tones, but Polytechnic feel less U.K. than U.S.A., less neo-Beatles than neo-Beach Boys. Down Til Dawn is some toe-tapping alt-pop/rock whose focus is a little less on brightness or complexity than on pure catchiness and hook. Some substance may be lacking on the record, but there’s no way it’s forgettable.
Polytechnic first came on to the scene with four successive singles, and Down Til Dawn kind of reads like that is the case. For the most part, every song is keeper, but put them together and one notices how similar they all trend, meaning the record misses out somewhat on variety. The best of the four singles are the first two, the melodic and winning “Won’t You Come Around” and the poppy, but also expansive, “Pep”. The excellent flow of “Come Around” is largely copied for the fourth single, “Cold Hearted Business”, as well as later album track “Quay Street”, but “Business” rings somewhat paler than “Around”, while “Quay” suffers from vocals that are too prominent and rambling, when they should be lower-keyed. The pop/post-rock direction of “Pep” is also carried over on the record, to the third single, “Man Overboard”, along with Down Til Dawn’s finisher, “Running Out of Ideas”, both of which contain gripping choruses, and verses that drag a bit in between.
Down Til Dawn doesn’t just stick with the singles’ formulas, as Polytechnic also break some sadder ground on the LP. The more somber tones of “Hoof” or ‘spit-in-your-eye’ sad of “Bible Stories” aren’t quite as polished as the band’s more up-tempo numbers, but they’re a nice change and show they have room to grow. Showing they have the ability to grow is “Rain Check”, whose great beat and wonderful guitars are married to just the right amount of sadness, with it able to tell a story without being overbearing. Touching, it quite possibly exceeds any of the band’s singles, or anything else on the album.
After opening for such acts as The Strokes and Keane in England, Polytechnic looks sure to be translatable to both sides of the pond (and elsewhere) with Down Til Dawn. Their indie-pop stylings are neither forced nor lackadaisical, and if they sometimes hit a few too many of the same notes, well, those are lovely notes to hear. What’s more, you won’t be able to get them out of your head – not that you’ll really want to…