On the 17th of February, The Assist brought out ‘Council Pop Unplugged’ – an acoustic variation of handpicked tracks from their 2022 debut album of the same name.
The Walsall band’s picks in this selection are nicely elevated in acoustic form and bring forth an EP flecked with identity and emotion. The first track ‘My Friend Drug’, throws out a raw, emotive vocal (which is an ever-present in the release) and pairs it with a touching and pensive lead guitar. This guitar almost acts like a vocal in itself and provides a duet like dynamic to lead singer Mikey Stanton.
The second song ‘Numb’ presents bouncing strings and yet again more emotional swells. Mikey’s vocal shows the band’s Walsall roots. With a subtle accentuation flickering through, it reflects an element of the group’s identity. There’s a personal struggle presented too in this ballad of lost love, as the lead “cannot seem to deal with all of this pain, I just wanna talk to you.”
‘Daydream’ takes up a motivational stature – opening with yet again suave chords and an orchestral input. From the sadness of ‘Numb’, it’s a pleasant transition to hope. “There’s a voice it seems, it’s telling me to hold on – to not give up on my dreams” and the recurring message “let’s daydream” imply this wishful note of escapism on the estate back drop of ‘Council Pop’ itself.
Photo: Luke Jones
The EP finishes with ‘Better Days’ and begins with a faster tempo and more percussive influence. If this EP was a journey through feeling, this one carries on the hope of ‘Daydream’ and implies a more stubborn, positive outlook from the narrative. It’s really a song of self-belief, as seen in uplifting lyricism like: “The answers to your problems lie within experience” or “don’t let people cloud your judgement, make the call yourself” add this message of solving ones own issues simply through living. There are no handouts in this world and ‘Council Pop’ illustrates this well.
This EP release builds on a growing repertoire for the West Midlands band. Ever since forming, the boys have gone from strength to strength in the underground indie scene and looking back, you can understand why support slots for the likes of Blossoms and Rat Boy came about. Fuelled by the familial bond of brothers Mikey and Ryan Stanton, this debut album and its subsequent EP points the five-piece in a very intriguing direction.