Review: Minimum Viable Product? We think not

Debut album ‘Minimum Viable Product’, released by Berlin-based band The Board last month, is an eclectic work.

With influences from metal to dream pop, the record covers a lot of ground across its 41 minute playtime. An international three-piece, with members from South Africa, Germany and the UK, the melting pot of sensibilities is one that rewards a close listen. Tackling grand themes like politics and alienation, the band are not lacking in ambition.

The term ‘Minimum Viable Product’ refers to something released to the public with the bare minimum of customer satisfaction in mind. It seems as though this is an ironic gag by the band: the musicianship across the record is of high quality and the production feels like the result of a lot of hard work. The guitars and drums remain powerful while the vocals are given space to breathe. Everything has a polished feel without the production encroaching on the songs.

This reviewer would describe the resulting sound as reminiscent of 90s/00s post-grunge, located somewhere between Pearl Jam and Audioslave. At times the songs feel like they could be leftovers from older A Perfect Circle albums, in particular when they lean into the epic and cinematic in tracks such as the single ‘Telescopes’ and ‘Concentration’. There are hints of Nu-metal in ‘Dystopiary’ and ‘History Agrees’, the latter of which is a standout.

Tackling grand themes like politics and alienation, the band are not lacking in ambition

Occasionally the songs can feel overlong and there could definitely be some fat cut from the bone. This is especially true of ‘In the Line’ and ‘Shakedown’, which seem to lose their focus in the course of the song. There are some surprising turns though, for example an intimate lead vocal performance in ‘Spark’. The lead guitar lines in songs such as ‘Caracal’ become somewhat imposing to the narrative of the songs and may benefit from being restrained a little.

Overall, this is a solid debut effort from the band. With some fine-tuning the songs could shed some weight and place more of an emphasis on the bigger and more grandiose moments. ‘Build It All Again’, the third single taken from the album, is an example of when the band get it right. Framing the Brexit psychodrama in terms of a romantic relationship, it achieves a lot in its relatively short running time. It will be interesting to see where the band go from here and how their sound might develop.

The Board will be performing alongside MoshiMoshiBox at Arcanoa on Friday 7th June – you can check out details of the gig here.

A Scottish troubadour, scientist, writer. Jack of few trades.

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