The Exact Opposite bring forward a formula that consists of a really distinctive sound and a unique strain of lightweight hard rock, all blended into neatly folded songs that go like an arrow, straight to the heart. Skill Issue, and its lead single ‘You Work For Us Now’ are thoroughly enjoyable offerings from a duo with lengthy musical histories. 

Based in Oxford, England, The Exact Opposite is a due made up of Jamie Stewart and Nigel Powell. Together, the duo’s history goes back to indie heroes Dive Dive, and separately they have featured in acts such as Dustball and The Sleeping Souls. Skill Issue is an extremely tight offering that features upbeat mixes that carry a particular flavour. The duo certainly uses their guitar/drums duality to the best possible effect, mitigating the lack of bass in some of the more exciting and gratifying ways possible. From an individual who firmly believes that bass is the foundation of nearly everything good life has to offer, I’m glad to say that The Exact Opposite has finally presented me with a healthy alternative. Songwriting.

The skeletally ingenious music on The Exact Opposite goes all the way from the experimental menace of St. Vincent to the suburban melodrama of Death Cab for Cutie, all the while remaining recognizable due to Suart’s vocal style and to the musicianship is Powell’s dynamic and shapeshifting beats. Taking the album’s lead single ‘You Work For Us Now’ as an example for everything the band’s sound stands for, given that it was one of the first songs the band conceived after they reunited in 2021, we find a guitar/drum duality that makes pretty much everything up for the lack of keys and bass. The duo’s consistent choice of going minimalistic with their mixes is a clear nod towards their confidence in the solidness of their songwriting, and their succeeding far more often than not is purely impressive.

An emotive song with pronounced melodies and a drum part that closely follows the borderline-punk guitars and vocals, ‘You Work For Us Now’ is a delicate juggernaut of a song. Recorded in nothing less than Jonny Greenwood’s studio, the spirit of Radiohead’s eccentric guitar wizard finds its way into the song, and nearly every other song on the record, with the sprightly rhythm and lead guitars, thorny and overdriven tones, and rhythmic parts throughout. Among the album’s other fantastic offerings are the somber and tragically titled ‘The Death Of You’, a subdued and sad guitar-led song that would sound right at home on Elliott Smith’s album, and Long Walk, a song featuring a standout acoustic guitar part and a superb drive to its groove.

‘Look At Him Go!’ is a striking display of the band letting their creative juices flow, with whimsical riffs and gently abrasive tones to complement the snaky sub-bass synth, starting the album on a surely positive note.

All in all, The Exact Opposite are presenting us with a masterclass in embracing what we are. With the power of two, the duo is making a blessed noise that would be a stretch for bands with twice the number of members. Adding to that a clear musicality and a strong knack for writing catchy tunes that sound that hardly anything else out there and we are left with a stunning debut that is begging to be followed by more.