You have to admit, a self-titled album by a band called "The Engineers" sounds generic and instantly forgettable guitar rock. Nine out of ten times, such an album probably would be.
Well, it isn't.
The Engineers make a surprisingly memorable debut, by setting themselves smack between slow-burning rock music and ethereal soundscapes -- think half Eno, half Beta Band. The lush pop that results is unique in sound, wide in scope, and short on flaws.
It opens on a strong note with "Home": buzzing, jangling guitars, angelic stoned vocals, some swelling strings, and delicate synth that goes from tinkly to airy. It has a great symphonic sound that not many bands can accomplish, and it does so without being melodramatic.
The songs that follow tend to veer in one direction or another: Some of them are a lot more rock-oriented than the first song. These won't win any prizes for grittiness, however. Even the hardest song on here still sounds a bit like psychfolk. In other words, don't expect "Thrasher" to live up to its name -- there's a buzzing bassline in the background, but nothing really hard.
And when they're softer... well, often they sound like Air on a hardcore day. Songs like "New Horizons" have the same delicate, ethereal sound, and the ambient sweeps you'd expect from a downtempo band. It peaks with "Peter Street," a minute of swooping synth bands that peak and then fade away.
Most bands can't really manage multiple sounds well, or blend different kinds of music together -- in this case, rock rhythms with rich sonic expanses. But the London quartet Engineers not only do this, they succeed wonderfully. The only real flaw is that some songs overstay their welcome, and could have used a bit of trimming in the last half.
The vocals sound a bit stoner-rockish; these guys sound mellow enough to melt. Simon Phipps and Mark Peters often sing separately, but in some songs their vocals tangle together or harmonize. No, not in the same song. But their singing is more like another instrument, especially since the actual words are hard to make out.
The Engineers were quite correct when they said, "We don't sound like The White Stripes. We don't sound like Coldplay. We don't sound like anything current." No, they don't. Their symphonic psychedelic rock sounds like something entirely their own.