This article was first published on 26 January 2013 on Louder Than War.

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Beat Mark – Howls of Joy (Ample Play)

CD / DL / LP

Released 18 February 2013

A French take on the British pop sound makes for a simply superb album from Beat Mark.

There are few French bands that have found a place on the wider world music stage in recent memory. A few, but not many. Pair this with the fact that melodic pop is also having to fight for the spotlight and Howls of Joy may seem like an unfashionable proposition.

That’s as maybe but it doesn’t diminish what a wonderful, warm and necessary album this is.

Sung in English, the two boy / two girl Beat Mark, present 13 three-minute pop songs, a French take on the big British pop sounds of the last five decades with the most obvious influences seeping in from the ‘80s and ‘90s.

And as if that spin on Britain’s music movements wasn’t enough lead single ‘Breezing’ runs with wild abandon along the beach, blaring Californian surf pop – complete with tumbling guitars and vocal harmonies – as it goes.

(You can hear it from the player below or if on your mobile just click here to go to Soundcloud) 

Each song is packed with heritage but mixed up enough to keep it interesting. You get echoes of iconic riffs throughout – a little bit of Supergrass’ Sitting Up Straight chugging at the start of Saw A Cold Mirror, a more upbeat but just as insistent I Am The Resurrection bass line and back beat for Purple Glow, Beach Boys harmonies throughout. A top it all are the distant, slightly fuzzy, occasionally deep resonating vocals that leave with an echo of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart lingering when the music stops.

There is a shambolic feel to these songs, not in a messy unstructured way but in the urgency they retain; it feels they’ve raced from instruments with an insistence on being heard that has left little space for clean production. It adds to the vintage aura emanating from the record, dusty vinyl and analogue creation that has fallen out of favour in the mainstream.

It’s a wonderful thing – this lo-fi scuzz teamed with psych, shoegaze, garage rock…just all the very best of so many eras of guitar pop. It’s sexy and dishevelled, charismatic and sweet. It’ll stick in your head and make you smile every time you realise it has once again landed on your internal jukebox. It’s almost impossible not to like it.

Discovered by Cornershop’s Tjinder Singh on a trip to Paris, he felt Beat Mark were making the sort of pop that Britain is at once known for and at the same time struggles to produce with the frequency and originality it once did. Not to belittle any of the great British bands out there at the moment but he is, in part, right.

But music is without borders too so as the needle hits the groove, vibrating with happy harmonies, the nationality becomes somewhat less important; this is just a gift of an album for anyone longing to listen to great pop.

All words by Sarah Lay.