Yes/no/grey greets you with monotone chords and stuttering guitar riffs underlain by a throbbing bass line and punctuated by Brad Klynsmith’s piercing vocals. A minute later, the body of “All These Things” kicks in and you’re privy to a concoction of alternative rock and the catchiness of pop rock. The song is like a poison, if poison can be a good thing. As soon as you listen to it, you become infected with the desire to progress further into the album.
Welcome to Gangs of Ballet. A band that understands that pop rock does not need to only be four chord riff energy and mindlessly bland lyrics. Instead they opt for a much more interesting blend of alternative rock energy, pop rock guitar hooks, synth undertones and intellectual lyrics rife with musings regarding the deeper meaning of life and love. In a way Gangs of Ballet create themselves into a much more interesting, and South African, version of esteemed alt-pop rockers Coldplay;with catchy lyrics in nearly every song and sense of upbeat melancholy imbued into their music.
The album progresses into the slightly more upbeat “Kiss Kiss” which has blues-rock inspired bass line to it while Klynsmith drawls over a fuzzy synth. The chorus kicks in and Klynsmith unleashes his full vocal range while the band unleash the alt-rockers within themselves and the guitar riffs gain a much fiercer quality to them. This blistering alt-rock affair is dampened by “Hello Sweet World”. It is tragically beautiful and uplifting song that tugs at both your heart strings and your vocal chords. The song opens with a soaring piano medley courtesy of Jono Rich that progress into a kick-drum infused medley that climaxes into a crescendo of indescribable beauty as the Klynsmith brothers, Brad and Josh, harmonise brilliantly upon the lyrics of “Someone’s got to fight for it/No-one’s here to give it up/ Someone’s got to fight for you”.
The tragic beauty of “Hello Sweet World” is tempered by the upbeat nature of “Don’t Let Me Go” which seems to take inspiration from Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto with kick-drum inspired medleys, jangling acoustic guitar chords and soaring high-pitched vocals. Gangs of Ballet deliver an adorable and catchy love balled that will make the coldest of hearts melt. It may even get you on your feet and dancing as Klynsmith delivers lyrics like “Without your sight my eyes are weak/ I am your arms/ You are my feet/ And tomorrow could be/ Our new day”. Gangs of Ballet deliver more songs similar to this through-out the album such as the slightly more low-key “Daydream”, “Can’t Let You Go” or the acoustic folk styled “Pass Me By”.
One of the singles off yes/no/grey is “House and Money” which is currently having a lot of rotation on radio stations like 5FM. The song takes edgy guitar riffs and tempers them with pop sensibility while throwing in an underlying kick drum and finally throwing in a splattering of delicate synth undertones. Essentially, it is a song that was designed for the radio but designed in a way of being one of those songs you freak-out to when you hear it on the radio as it is a sublime masterpiece. If Gangs of Ballet were painters, this would be their Last Supper.
Yes/no/grey closes on two slightly stranger, and unique songs. “Isn’t It A Shame” and “Fool With A Heart” take a leaf out of the books of indie rockers Zebra and Giraffe with edgy guitar riffs, haunting piano medleys and thundering guitar riffs beneath the chorus. There even seems to be an influence of Muse in some of the piercing guitar riffs on “Isn’t It a Shame”. “Fool with a Heart” aims for a much larger sound and morphs itself into a blend of an alt-rock anthem and a slow indie rock song.
Gangs of Ballet took South Africa by a storm with the release of yes/no/grey. Their infectious alt-pop rock anthems gripped us firmly by the heart and lead us on in massive sing-alongs as they played at some of our major festivals. They’re a band that stand ready to take the world by storm and may just do so with their illicit blend of alt rock and pop sensibility. Yes/no/grey is a debut album for the history books.