Arcane Roots – ‘Over & Over’ [Review]
First off, let me just say: This tune is fucking immense. It’s anthemic, even joyful, heavy as fuck, and is wrapped up in a unique sound that can be readily identified as belonging to Arcane Roots – regardless of what the “Biffy Clone” critics claim. Now, there’s a certain amount of Biffy in there, yes – after all, music is rarely made in a vacuum, and artists of all stripes have been influenced by others – but Arcane Roots deliver their own special twist on Biffy’s brand of new-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.
Prior to this single, a key part of Arcane Roots’ uniqueness was their technicality. Superhuman guitar gymnastics and mind-warping post-djent odd meter madness were really the order of the day on debut album Blood & Chemistry – although the potential for irreversible brain compression was tempered by a fine artisan’s approach to song crafting. On Over & Over, however, things have shifted in the opposite direction. There’s still some oddness in there, but it’s all been harnessed and put to a single, hyperfocussed task: Serving The Song.
Over & Over is, first and foremost, a song – and a great song at that. But I can already hear the howling and discordant cries of the pop-fearing critics out there. They’ll cry “SELLOUTS!” and “LABEL WHORES!” before this song even reaches its conclusion. They’ll point to Many of Horror and the X-Factor and scream “HOW LONG BEFORE SLOW SUFFERS THE SAME FATE!?!? I DON’T WANT TO LIVE ON THIS PLANET ANYMORE!”
That is happening right now. Count on it.
In reality, however, things are a little different. As with Britain First’s D-Day clickbait bonanza and UKIP’s success in the recent MEP elections, you really, really have to look below the surface a bit before jumping to conclusions. Behind the scenes of Over & Over, Arcane Roots’ artist-label contract is significantly different from, say, Biffy Clyro’s. Let’s see the difference first, then go through exactly what it means.
Here’s the copyright notice for Over & Over, as found via Spotify:
And here’s the copyright notice for Biffy Clyro’s Black Chandelier EP:
Biffy’s copyright notice – found at the bottom of the image – is a lot simpler. Why? Because their label (14th Floor Records) owns that EP. I’m not going to bore you with a lecture on copyright law, but Biffy’s label most likely owns Black Chandelier because they paid for it to be recorded. If you look at Arcane Roots’ more complex copyright notice, however, it says that Arcane Roots own Over & Over. The song was released through PIAS, but PIAS don’t actually own Over & Over. The song belongs to the band.
So what’s all that about an “exclusive license” then? Well, Arcane Roots own the copyright in Over & Over, which suggests that they paid for it to be recorded, maybe in their own studio or one that they hired themselves. Then, once they were done making this fairly commercially-oriented tune, they gave PIAS a license (a license being the legal permission to do something; think James Bond and his “license to kill”) to distribute and promote it. By doing things this way Arcane Roots get to make a record on their own terms, while PIAS can get involved with a new release with far less financial risk. The “exclusive” bit just means that no other labels can distribute or promote Over & Over, which is nothing more than good business sense.
When a band does things this way, it often allows them much more creative freedom. If the label isn’t paying for studio time, they’re not going to be concerned about how many hours the band in question need to come up with a release-worthy track. And since the label’s financial investment in the release is going to be dramatically lower, they’re probably not going to be as concerned with how “commercially-oriented” it is. If your costs are lower than usual, you won’t need as much revenue to make a profit.
In short, all this suggests that despite the angry words that are sure to come their way (especially if an official video for Over & Over appears on YouTube), Arcane Roots are not a band that needs to be “liberated” from their “evil constrictive contract written by demonic lawyers working for a dirty and dastardly record label”, and they’re not “simple-minded little label slaves”. Arcane Roots are a band who know what they’re doing. If they are moving in a more commercial direction – and to be fair, we’ve not even heard their new album yet – it’s because they want to. And one of the rarest sights in music is a successful band who are actually free to do as they please. This should be cause for celebration, not dismissal.
It’s a little ironic that when a band chooses a path which allows them to follow their own vision and minimise the need to compromise, many people happily treat them as being no different from X-Factor winners and boy bands. It’d be easy to get angry at that, and demonise other people in the same way they demonise certain up-and-coming acts of today. But it’s 2014, not 1014. Burning people at the stake is painfully last-millennium, and right now we’re looking at a band who are perfectly capable of preparing for the future.
Arcane Roots represent not just the future of broken-kaleidoscope rock music, but a solid career model for other acts to follow. I definitely want to see and hear more of this kind of thing.
Links / Listen / Buy
Buy Over & Over on iTunes. For 99p. Go on – that’s cheaper than a really crap sandwich from Gregg’s.
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