Formed in London in 1990 by a local and two refugees from the southern English city of Winchester, Revolver — Mat Flint (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Nick Dewey (drums) and Hamish Brown (bass) — spent the first two years of its existence (chronicled on Baby’s Angry, which consolidates all but two tracks from a pair of EPs and a maxi-single) progressing from energetic by-the-numbers shoegazing (more Lush than My Bloody Valentine) to subtly textured and distinctive pop melodicism. Expressing abject romantic devotion (“Heaven Sent an Angel,” “Don’t Ever Leave,” “Cherish”) without playing coy, Revolver is clearly more interested in songcraft than the simple sensuality of sound for its own sake. By the end of the process, the firm rhythms and pretty echo-tunnel singing add up to “Since Yesterday,” a stately elegy that sends hooks flying on a captivating and complex wash of orchestra, voices, acoustic strumming and raw distortion. If the same single’s “Red All Over” suggests an unnatural familiarity with the Moody Blues, it also suggests a usefully contrasting Wedding Present influence.
Cold Water Flat accommodates the trio’s expanding audio ambitions with a handful of guest players adding horns, strings, percussion, didgeridoo and flute. While the janglepoppy “I Wear Your Chain” could, without the pizzicato fiddling, be a Teenage Fanclub song, “Cradle Snatch” evolves into a six-minute psychedelic Doors jam. The dreamy smooch of “Nothing Without You” and the semi-acoustic “Coming Back” wrap the cotton wool loosely enough to be the Dream Academy or suchlike. “Makes No Difference All the Same” buries a fine-sounding song about romantic murder (?!) behind strings, scraggly guitar jabs and whatever else the band can lay its hands on. Having evolved quickly, Revolver now can’t seem to harness its talent and divergent stylistic ideas into a cogent personality. Although agreeable enough, Cold Water Flat is far too elaborately furnished, with needless bits of musical business indiscriminately slathered everywhere. Like a posh showroom, the album is impressive rather than inviting, its overproduced surface glittering brightly to discourage discovering what might lay underneath.