It’s amazing to think that its been eight years since Britpop protagonists The Seahorses released their one and only album, Do It Yourself. Since that time the band’s vocalist Chris Helme has been very much out of the limelight, and after a spell trying to carve out a solo career he is now back with a brand new band and a brand new sound.
Having shaken off the shackles of John Squire‘s dictatorship, Helme has taken along Seahorses bassist Stuart Fletcher to form The Yards with Chris Farrell (guitar), Jon Hargreaves (keyboard) and John Miller (drums). Despite only just releasing their debut album now the band have actually been knocking around doing gigs for over two and a half years, mainly in small venues close to their York base, creating a much rawer sound than that of Helme’s former band.
Opening number Forget Your Regrets offers an unexpected start, as a grungy guitar riff and thudding drums introduce this retro sounding song with a slightly psychedelic tinge. A positive way to kick things off, the vibe carries on into second track, Get Off My Back, which also has a late 60s feel about it.
The first single from the album is The Devil Is Alive And Well And In DC which, as you might gather from the title, means it’s lets have a dig at George Bush time again. Now nobody is going to argue with you but it has been said a million times already at every live gig since he became president. As for the actual song, it has a distinct Doors feel about it – a fast rocker which starts with the lyric “do you wanna cook my head under a killer sun”. Nice.
Only Myself To Blame is a good melodic ballad which gets about as close to the Seahorses sound as anything on this record. Helme’s vocal versatility is tested far more on this album than any before and he comes out with flying colours as he slips from demonic mode, on the previous track, to the joyous vocal on this anthemic number and then the heart-aching, yearning, emotion of tender ballad Up ‘Til Dawn.
Some of Helme’s vocals on this album are very reminiscent of the late great Jeff Buckley, particularly on Crime, another solid rock tune which appears to be another whinge about the woes of the world.
On The Inside is instantly forgettable, whilst Superhuman is a bit of a wishy-washy ballad that finds you battling against the urge to yawn. Followed by the dull as dishwater opening bars of Pure you won’t be able to fight the urge anymore, however the song does gradually build to finish with a guitar solo and some manic drums which liven things up no end.
They rock out again on the short and sharp California, which includes the great lyric “we’ll send a crazy jackass to kick away your throne”, whilst Fireflies is one of the strongest songs on offer and the only I can ever remember to include the word “hypnotherapeutic”. Reflective verses are followed by a powerful chorus and another blistering guitar solo at the end. Indeed it is with tunes like this one that you can see why they have been a hit as a live act so far, songs made to be played live with extended musical indulgence.
Overall, The Yards self-titled debut won’t get you singing along as the Seahorses record still does but it is a solid release. And if you get a chance to see them live I suspect it could be a chance worth taking.