Led Bib is usually considered a jazz-rock band, and while that’s a label that captures some aspects of the band’s sound, it is still a bit of a misnomer if not accompanied by further qualifications. Indeed, it’d take quite a bit of shoehorning to make the British quintet fit neatly into said pigeonhole: To begin with, there’s very little actual “rock” music to be found on The People in Your Neighbourhood (the band’s fifth full-length). Unlike many classic jazz-rock bands, Led Bib show an interest in jazz beyond Miles’ feverish Electric Jazz; nods to Modal Jazz, Bop and even Swing abound here, while the “rock” part of the equation is often only implied rather than acted out. This is also reflected in the band’s line-up: Instead of employing an electric guitar as lead instrument, the band features two alto saxophones on top of drums, double bass and keyboards. In the absence of this rock signifier par excellence, it’s up to the drums and keys to add a rock-ish feel to the proceedings.
This, of course, is not per se a problem, and the album really starts in a rather impressive way, with the first five cuts being particularly strong. Whether it’s the groovy, swinging New Teles, the kinetic This Roofus or the melodramatic Angry Waters – there’s hardly any reason to kvetch here. Finally, Recycling Saga caps off this impressive string of songs; it’s probably the highpoint of the entire album, moving slowly and elegantly towards a gorgeous conclusion, recalling Kind of Blue’s thought-out constructions in the process.
Unfortunately, though, The People in Your Neighbourhood is also an album that overstays its welcome; by the time Plastic Lighthouse comes on, the listener is already well-accustomed to the band’s modus operandi and starting to crave for some variation. In a way, one of the band’s greatest strengths – its sense of form – becomes its biggest weakness as the album nears its end; what seemed elegant in the beginning, starts to feel unwieldy and even bloated here. In general, the album’s second half lacks discord – in both the literal and figurative senses. There are hardly any “stumbling blocks” to break the routine and reawaken the listener’s interest. That being said, Orphan Elephants is – while short on surprises – nonetheless a strong way to end the record.
As it is, The People in Your Neighbourhood is a decent record, but it might’ve been a brilliant one had the band taken more chances.