What's funky, fast, furious and over in less than three minutes? Get your mind out of the gutter, for the answer is a Free Diamonds song. This CD has sixteen of them.
Conceived in Newcastle Upon Tyne, the English three-piece lay down thick bass grooves with ease, backed by enrichingly funky drum beats and then all covered in a unhealthy amount of guitar and vocal madness. Similar to toffee sweets, their melodies are sickly, enjoyable, liable to get stuck in your teeth and strongly discouraged for elderly people.
Free Diamonds have certainly got their dynamic shifts sorted as each song swiftly lunges from funky to full on pop-punk sing-a-longs before retreating back to delicately strummed sensitivity. Oddly enough for such a 'unique' band they seem to veer dangerously close to copyright infringement of Blood Brothers side-project Neon Blonde (compare F.D's intro to "Backpack Escape Plan" to N.B's "Crystal Beaches Never Turned Me On" - around the two-minute mark) at times. However this isn't such a travesty, since there are many worse comparisons than this.
The vocals are guaranteed to prove divisive as most of the album is delivered in a high-pitched squeal, and can prove tiresome on occasion, so it's a rather pleasant excursion when you come upon the rather prominent brilliance of the instrumentalism on display here. The second half of "Midnight Rainbow" being one of these aforementioned highlights.
One thing it's impossible not to like is the sheer warmth and humour of the themes dealt with in "By The Sword". Quintessentially British in their nature, Free Diamonds's fun-loving exterior betray a small amount of vulnerability about their fear of growing up and rejection. It's this glimmer of humanity that raises it from being mere absurbist nonsense, albeit quite funny absurbist nonsense like "so my cigarettes keep making her sick / well I'm allergic to her perfume / but you don't hear me bitch about it" or "I'd like to learn how to surf / and there's a million other things / I'd better learn how to swim first."
"By The Sword" reveals a band acutely aware of their strengths just in need of a little more range and experimenting. Besides that small niggle, we'd give the album a hearty thumbs up if it weren't for the fact that Roger Ebert would sue us, therefore we'll have to make do with the ten-star marking system, which we're suddenly wondering if we can copyright ourselves.