O Children - Apnea
Depending on who you listen to, O Children's self-titled debut album was either the second coming of goth or a lackluster Horrors tribute album.
Either way, one thing that can be said for that album is that for all its dark anthems, at times it struggled at times to convey a sense of its own identity. It's a complaint made only too often at modern bands who flirt with classic goth influences. However, O Children mustn't be confused with the likes of White Lies and their Soccer AM ready, poorly written, "middle class problems" drudgery. They're far better than that.
Apnea's opening track 'Holy Wood' alone is evidence of this. Courtesy of a pretty neat key change, it is a great track that starts the record with towering vocalist Tobi O' Kandi still sounding a bit like (and this is in no way a criticism) an undead Bryan Ferry, supported by an angular guitar and claustrophobic intensity.
'The Realest' follows up, sneering cynically before bursting into life and revealing that O Children still have an ear for a chorus. 'Red Like Fire' uses a similar template; it's a slow-burner that builds towards several massive somber crescendos.
Lead single 'PT Cruiser' is a highlight, with a self-satisfied swagger and a rough and ready riff it's practically rock and roll, and the masculine Swim rides on a riff that could almost be called blues-y.
Apnea's most surprising element however is its pop-laden middle section. 'I Know (You Love Me)' and the shuffling synths of 'H8 City' offer, what repeated listens reveal to be, satisfying and maddeningly addictive hooks.
'Oceanside', however, is limp. Never really going anywhere, it drags through it's near five minute running time and penultimate track 'Solid Eyes' has a likable groove but does nothing to stand out, or even stand up to the standards held on the majority of the album.
It's all forgiven though, for the fantastic 'Chimera', closing the album by bringing all of Apnea's best elements coming together and setting off soaring around the rafters. It's a track that signs off by pushing the boundaries of what you would expect from this band.
After even the briefest of listens to their debut, it is clear that O Children only struggled to forge their own identity not through being general awful (yes this is another dig at you White Lies), but just by seemingly being too in awe of their influences, and too concerned about properly paying homage to write their own songs freely. Apnea proves through that they have now not only got their own sound nailed perfectly, but they have gained the maturity and confidence to make their own experiments.
There's a typically journalistic link to be made here. During the writing of Apnea, O Children's imposing frontman Tobi O' Kandi found himself dragged into a legal battle. He had come into the UK as a child, and unbeknownst to him, outstayed his visa by several years. Exhausted by the court case, Tobi developed the breathing condition (you guessed it…) apnea and severe insomnia. Apnea is a tangibly personal record as a result, but more importantly Tobi's fight to win his own identity seems to have inspired the band as a whole to do the same.