Stop - Start is a moment we've been waiting for since we first saw LIINES play to about ten people at a fanzine launch back in December 2014. Within seconds we knew they were a very special band, one that we had to champion. Fast forward three and a half years and we're proudly placing the needle down on a gorgeous slab of white vinyl and listening to ten songs that, like the album's title suggests, represent a battle to get this record out into the world. There might be scars, but the minute the bass and drums kick in and Zoe's trademark almost out of breath vocals start to give absolutely everything to the song, it all makes perfect sense.
LIINES have climbed all the walls the music business has put up for them. Refusing to compromise their principles, their style and their integrity to fit into some sort of scene, they tick few of the boxes that the industry would have you do to succeed. But succeed they have, and one listen to Stop - Start tells you why. With a sizeable following outside the UK, the patronage of the likes of John Kennedy, who read a review we wrote for Louder Than War in a drunken effusive haze and played Never There every night for two weeks after sourcing it from his flu bed, the Unsigned Guide, Get In Her Ears and an ever increasing band of influential behind-the-scenes people, they one by one knocked over the barriers in their way, selling out shows in Manchester and further afield.
LIINES don't trade in niceties, we're not sure they could if they wanted to. Stop - Start is ten pieces of the most raw, direct, unpretentious rock music you're likely to hear all year. Delivered from the heart with the same fiery passion that they bring to their live shows, you could close your eyes and imagine Steph strutting the stage, turning a song on its head with a flick of a string, Leila's powerful rhythmic drum patterns that dictate the pace and direction of the song and Zoe's delivery of her words, the intensity of her voice echoing and amplifying the emotional wringer she's putting herself through in many of these songs.
For those who've followed LIINES up to now, many of these songs will be familiar from the live set, but in studio form Paul Tipler has managed to capture the energy of the band's live performances with a very unfussy uncluttered production, so you can hear the nuances and subtleties that are present in LIINES' work despite the base tools that they have at their disposal. None of the songs last longer than three minute twenty seconds, but they don't need to, they storm in, kick you in the gut and leave you stunned and reeling and then leave just as abruptly as they arrive.
Unlike most modern albums, there isn't really one or two stand-out tracks here. The standard is consistent at the highest level. Whether that be the jagged shards of bass and guitar that stab at you whilst Zoe implores you to tell her "what were you thinking?" on the album's opener Shallow or the stone-cold classic sound of Never There, the song that announced them back in 2015 and still as fresh, vibrant, exciting and desperate as it was back then as the question "why can't you tell me, it's not fair, you never notice I'm never there" is posed with a desperation that ends with the concluding line "you don't see me no matter what I do."
Be Here, part of their double A-side single with Disappear, talks of clinging onto the wreckage of a failing relationship - "I don't want this to end, I'm not going to give up easy, I don't want you to go, I want you to be here" - with the clarity of the message making this a stark, slightly uncomfortable listen, like all the most expressive lyrics do. It's a theme continued on Find Something, although it's about searching for what's been lost - "I want to be there again with you, there's nothing I want more."
Cold is one of our favourites and one of the oldest songs on the record, dating back to the demo CD we walked out of Gullivers clutching to our chest after our first meeting with LIINES. It still possesses the desolate "It's cold and I'm lonely, it's cold and you're nowhere" line that is so simple in its execution, yet so powerful in the way it expresses such a stark feeling of being alone and lost in the world. Blackout, another early single, shows LIINES' ability to pack so many ideas into a two minute twenty song and to take it through very different sections without the join marks being obvious.
Disappear starts with a drumbeat that sounds military in its precision, like a first punch, followed up by two knockout ones that finish you off and leave you submitting to them. The lyrics, like so much that's gone before, come from a dark place, this time dealing in the inability to move on and look forwards "Don't you wish you'd learnt to forget, something you know that has ended?" Hold Your Breath, one of the newer tracks, deals with looking for something to cling "never thought you'd be stronger, hold your breath a little longer" as Zoe tries to keep her head above water and her sanity intact.
Never Wanted This feels even more sparse than what's gone before, just drums and vocals in parts - "hold tight, I'll keep us together, I never wanted this" - as the desperation in Zoe's voice becomes more edgy and intense as she repeats the song's title. The album finishes with Nothing that's full of the bleak realisation that things might be coming to an end with the telling and emotionally honest line "now there's nothing in my heart for you" in keeping with the rest of the album running through the song.
What LIINES do so well, and Stop - Start lays this down irrefutably, is to create a sound that's unmistakably theirs, setting their targets laser-like and locking down on them and hitting them dead centre without fail. There's not a single second on this album where they're trying to be anything else but themselves. Inspired by post-punk and riot girl heroines - Sleater Kinney, P J Harvey, Eilidh from the much-missed local heroes Solar Race, they're laying claim to be the inspiration for future generations of girls to pick up an instrument and use it to express themselves without the need to pander to the whims of anyone but themselves. It's a very brave album lyrically as it's more open and emotionally descriptive than most singers would dare to show.
Stop - Start might be modest in its outlook, like the band themselves, but that is what makes it such a powerful magnificent statement and the perfect capture of everything that LIINES are about.
LIINES' official website can be found here. They are also on Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud.
The album is available on beautiful white vinyl from their Bandcamp.
They play Manchester Ritz (5, with The Membranes).
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