Emerging out of the increasingly repetitive London post-punk scene, Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen (joined by bassist Campbell Baum and Lincoln Barrett on drums) deftly set themselves apart from their contemporaries. 925 is the consequence of three years of experimentalism and Sorry are redefining what it means to be a ‘guitar band’ in the modern day.
Rather than entirely casting off the mould usually attributed with the likes of Shame and Goat Girl, the restless chaos of 925 runs rings around the stereotype. Sorry ditch the empty politics of the current wave of post-punk, and revert to seemingly simplistic subjects: lost love, broken relationships and the youthful quest for self-destruction. This simplicity in subject matter, however, doesn’t equate to a straightforward or stale sound. The duo refuse to be confined by genre, their sound is heterogeneous and a continual amalgamation of stylistic influences.
The album is characteristically postmodern: each sonic choice is full of meaning, yet simultaneously almost entirely deprived of it. The conventional post-punk riffs so regularly exhausted in the walls of Windmill Brixton are appropriated almost mockingly by the duo: metallic beats meet uneasy, haunting guitar riffs on tracks such as Snakes and More. Equally, 925 encounters everything from glimmering pop and internet age electronica to 1960s jazz. Heather provides a direct contrast to the aforementioned singles, taking on a childish almost nursery rhyme-like quality. The track scales back on complexity, taking on a country-esque sound, as frivolous, giddy vocals are combined with isolated guitar licks. 925’s eclecticism firms up Sorry’s status as a band not only capable of genre-bending progression, but a band born solely out of a love for the act of music-making.
While the pair have graduated to a more conventional way of music making— a cohesive 13 track album seems a far cry from their previous homemade mixtapes— the band’s handmade ethos remains. Co-produced by O’Bryen and James Dring (Jamie T, Nilüfer Yanya), the album retains a hand-crafted edge, without compromising on production quality. The album is underpinned by moments of sensual chaos, with sporadic yet well executed sonic shifts defining each track: every minor sound we encounter seems specifically timed and intentional. Lorenz’s abrupt “eugh” on agitated fan-favourite Starstruck is just as natural as it is startling and the flustered saxophone refrains that characterise Rock ‘n’ Roll Star are jarring yet instinctive. The curse of the glistening, over-produced sound that so frequently comes with transitioning from home demo to studio-level production is something O’Bryen and Dring tactfully avoid. Clean harmonies and polished sterility are both things that 925 cordially omits.
Sorry’s eclecticism is captured as fortuitous opener Right Around The Clock (blending generic jazz riffs with Lorenz and O’Bryen’s intertwined vocals) fades into the looming and almost apocalyptic In Unison. The latter track embodies Sorry’s refractory nature as its menacing verses are starkly contrasted with repetitive pop-esque choruses that, alongside its title, create a haunting, choral atmosphere.
The duo’s lyrics continually overlap and intermingle: they constantly cut each other off, either with lyrics of their own or with unfathomable mumblings. It comes as no surprise that Lorenz and O’Bryen are childhood best friends, each interruption seems immaculately timed and full of meaning. Throughout the album and its sonic interferences, the pair remain in-sync as Lorenz’s feathery vocals are pitted against O’Bryen’s dark, occasionally understated lyrics. This contrast, seen on the ballad-like Rosie should be jarring, but simply adds to Sorry’s allure. Perfect is the nearest Sorry get to a duet in a conventional sense. Equally, the track features customary pop rock guitar riffs and is the closest thing to derivative indie rock we see on 925. Rather than intermingling in typical Sorry fashion, the pair’s vocals accompany one another, working in harmony as they finish each other’s sentences. O’Bryen’s repeated “Just pick it up” is answered by Lorenz’s “and pack it in,” emphasising the pair’s sonic chemistry.
As an entity, 925 speaks both out of Sorry’s past, and into the future it intends to shape. The band’s history is evident in tracks such as Snakes and Ode To Boy, both refined from their appearance on 2017 mixtape Home Demos/ns Vol 1 to reflect the duo’s everchanging, mutating sound. The latter track in particular is testament to Sorry’s status as a product of the modern age as electronic influences are pitted against Lorenz’s isolated child-like vocals. The track’s lyricism is full of youthful nostalgia, as the romanticised whispering ‘you know I love you’ is repeatedly distorted by jarring, artificial sounds. The album’s only weakness comes with the closing track Lies, a flimsy refix of one of the band’s earlier singles. Increased distortion and menacing synths add little to a track that had already gained status as a fan-favourite; Lies is a slightly abrupt, unfulfilled conclusion to an otherwise immaculate debut.
For all its sporadicism, 925 is the unfaltering and impeccably timed product of years of experimentation. Pitting youthful dreaminess against apocalyptic realism, the pair defy the usual messiness that comes with a stubborn defiance of genre: for an album so eclectic, it remains judiciously cohesive. Sorry are challenging what it means to be a guitar band, setting the precedent for a new wave of elusive post-punk.
Listen to ‘925’ here.