"Reach You" is a seesaw that goes up on big beats and clanging chords and comes down with simple strumming and vocals. Throughout, Healy wears his heart in his throat, exposing his frailty even if the music isn't always delicate. The band relies on acoustic guitars for the main thrust and only allows the electrics to shimmer across the surface of songs.
The band has a delicate touch -- even when letting the floodgates of guitars open now and then -- which lets it delve into other styles without losing its identity. Similarly, the swirl of keyboards and jangled guitars that close out "The Fear" give it a space rock edge without taking the song into the stratosphere. And those are just the first two tracks.
The hit U.K. singles "Driftwood" and "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?" highlight the differences in our two cultures. "Driftwood" is a mellow, acoustic-tinged rock song, while "Rain" updates the bouncing beat of the Monkees' "Daydream Believer" with strings. Neither song stands much chance of breaking through the airwaves here, because there isn't anything artificial or contrived about them. No carefully packaged imagery, no dance-routine videos, just four guys and four chords.
The record has problems, to be sure: The falsetto vocals of "The Last Laugh of the Laughter" nearly sink the piano-heavy number, and Healy's moan is, at times, a bit too much like Radiohead singer Thom Yorke's, while the back-to-back ballads "Luv" and "She's So Strange" slow the pace down some toward the end. But these are relatively minor complaints. Otherwise, it's simply lovely, despite the hype.