Tall Ships - Everything Touching
- By Dan Alland -
- Oct 09, 2012
Well, the wait is finally over. Brighton-based math rockers, Tall Ships, have finally treated us to a full-length album release. The buzz has been so loud and protracted that many of their fanbase were complaining to their GPs with acute tinnitus. The hype is entirely justified, though; what with their two 2010 EPs, 'Tall Ships' and 'There Is Nothing But Chemistry Here', careering through our quiet little suburban homes with their mammoth math rockery, leaving nothing but smashed-up broken crockery in their wake; the listeners were always going to be left wanting more.
The first thing I noticed about the band was their aptitude for clever little song titles. 'Words Are Pegs Upon Which We Hang Ideas' is a slight paraphrasing of Beecher the Preacher's nineteenth-century, literary-loving, philosophical profundity. And then there was the barnstorming, 'Books', which was – in theme as well as in musicality – another unapologetically flamboyant display of the band's intelligence.
Their new album, 'Everything Touching', opens with 'T=0', which will be familiar to many. Released as a single in March this year, it is for my money the best song of 2012. An abrasive loop-de-looping guitar riff perpetuates, lacerating the listener's concept of time; an incredible two minutes goes by, the same riff circulating, leaving us still hungry for more. That is, until the song breaks and we are greeted by the album's soliloquy: “That, is a portrait to the world / a festival / full of people trying to feel whole again...” The lyrics – tear-jerkingly nostalgic; the melody – minimally beautiful; but it's the song's clever use of contrast that makes the hairs stand to attention.
Next up is 'Best Ever', which has all the characteristics of a Tall Ships song: a hooky, looping riff that builds to a breakdown; this particular one, though, is very reminiscent of the early XTC number, 'Battery Brides', in the light of its ability to be both melancholic and yet angular. Following that is 'Phosphorescence', where the band is reaching a new territory; another looping guitar riff dominates, but this time sitting on a 6/8 time signature and a considerable amount of vocal. This is a welcome break from what was almost becoming a formula with Tall Ships.
When 'Idolatry' thuds in at track seven with its reverbed, muddy drum beat, on top of which a pleasant-enough sustained vocal line gently sails, it does feel as though the energy is beginning to wane slightly, rather than it acting as a vital breathing space for the album. The penultimate track is a reshaped version of the previously mentioned, Books, but if I'm honest – it just isn't as good. That soul-shredding keyboard melody has been blunted down for more sensitive ears it seems, sapping out much of the life it once had.
This album was on for full marks at the halfway point of the album; but it seems that Tall Ships' propensity for creating smashing EPs doesn't quite transcend to the required longevity of ideas for an accomplished LP. A politician would call it “unsustainable”. They may not all be killers but, for the most part, Everything Touching is still a mighty fine piece of work and is therefore an essential addition to any self-respecting rock fan's record collection.
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