Columbia Mills: A Safe Distance to Watch

review columbia mills x1 cong

Columbia Mills – who take their name from a building on Dublin’s Quays, once a centre of the illegal rave scene – have reportedly had comparisons made with LCD Soundsystem and Joy Division, but we can only assume that’s by a five-year-old who’s never heard either band. This is pop with an electronic element, but it’s got more pop and polish than either of those two points of reference.

Columbia Mills seem to give several clues to their roots: 80s electronic pop. The opening sound of first song, A Break in the Clouds, Head Start, is the pulse beat from Vienna. (We emailed the band and asked them if Midge Ure was an influence and the singer replied: “This means nothing to me. Vienna?”). The pulsing electronic This City Doesn’t Feel Like Home To Me ends with the signature riff from OMD’s Enola Gay.

Overall, the album is too shiny to be exciting, but it’s slick pop and well made. Where they get pace right they’re good, in a Coldplay, stadium-filling way. If you want excitement, the opener is a good song, its electronic pulse giving it a driving beat; perhaps a bit Deacon Blue, but decent enough. Coldest Shoulder is atmospheric.

Big electronic pop tunes aside it goes, to be honest, a bit Neil Diamond, not that being a bit Neil Diamond ever did Neil Diamond any harm.

There was an excellent band called Tiny Dancers a few years ago (well, 10 now, so some years ago), who had some great tunes on their one and only album but were just a little too lacking in edge to make it any further. We saw them at the Sugarmill, the audience only us and the support band. Criminal.

Columbia Mills are the same – it’s likable, competent pop, well played, and the singer has a good voice. If they can break out they have the potential to be a band like Deacon Blue. As Tiny Dancers found out, good tunes and working hard are sometimes not enough, but good luck to them.


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