The gist Not so difficult second album, despite the 10 year gestation The music 10 years on from their acclaimed debut album, The Early Years have finally returned with a new album on a new label, hopping from Beggars Banquet to Sonic Cathedral (who also trickled out a few of the band's interim singles and EPs). II opens with the immediate and accessible "Nocturne", which blends swirling psychedelia with 80s underground synth-pop and new wave. "Out Of Signal" follows this trend, opening with a verse that wouldn't be out of place on a Human League record, but supplementing it with an audacious and contrasting guitar solo which John Squire would be proud of. Immediately I'm thinking that this is probably the most commercially viable record that the Sonic Cathedral label have ever released, but the band have somehow managed to accomplish it without annoying me. A rare coup. However, we're currently only two tracks in, and over the course of the full double LP The Early Years get to flex their krautrock and Eno muscles on more complex work like "Clone Theory" in which the vocals are mostly sacrificed in favour of an icier cinematic sound. From here it becomes clear that The Early Years have played a bit of a Low trick on us, rolling out the "hits" on the first half of the record, and experimenting more on the second (with the possible exception of "Do It (Again)" which dips back into the motoric, synth and bass heavy formula). The tunes get more subdued and the structures become harder to predict. Both have their merits and both seem to have been painstakingly put together. Maybe this is a symptom of taking 10 years to put together a second album, or maybe it was an intentional move to show two sides of the same coin. Whatever the reason, The Early Years have made an ambitious record which is fitting of a long hiatus. Listen to "For The Fallen" - a nine minute mammoth which kind of straddles The Early Years' line between traditional and avant garde.