Somerset has given the world some wonderful things; Glastonbury, cider, cheddar cheese and PJ Harvey, to name only a few. It has also given us Waves Of Fury who, on this their debut album, have made a strong pitch for being talked about in the same company as some of the West Country’s finest.
Thirst arrives having been recorded at Polly Jean’s own studio, via the band taking a sojourn to the southern United States on tour. Waves Of Fury have talked about the similarities of both parts of the world influencing this album and coming through in the music. They’ve described the similar levels of reservation and closed communities they saw in the southern USA as reminding them of back home. So it might be expected that Thirst would be a bleak record with a dark soul to it.
Mostly, and fortunately, that isn’t the case. Thirst is predominantly an uplifting collection of songs, a brilliant blend of genres with only a slight underbelly of something more sinister. Front man and songwriter Carter Sharp may cite Edgar Allen Poe as an influence, but his band is influenced by the rising horns of Motown soul and the driving guitar of garage punk. This is less The Raven and more The Ramones meets Stax.
Death Of A Vampire may sound gothic, but it sports a horn and drum section that would get Bram Stoker tapping his toes. It breaks down about three quarters through as the horns assert their dominance, before ending on a suitable howl from Sharp, channelling his inner Iggy Pop, with raw energy.
It only gets better from there on in. I Don’t Know What To Make Of Your Fucked Up Friends starts with funky guitar stabs and hand claps. It’s very much the calm before the Sharp storm as he again erupts into the chorus that gives the song its title. There is an irresistible energy to the whole song that sums up Waves Of Fury well – there is some angst there, but the soul overrides it.
Sharp gets more of his own way on The Killer Inside Me, a lament to his – or someone’s – inner demons. It’s darker than some of the rest of the album due to the subject matter, but again comes with a hefty slice of horns and even a Marvin Gaye style breakdown.
There is some real variety on Thirst as well. Nervous Exhaustion is cleverly low key at just over a minute long with acoustic guitars accompanying Sharp’s refrain: “I’m a little tired that’s all.” Viodrene is considerably longer and ends the album, starting off delicately before coming in with the most obviously rock and roll aesthetic on the whole album. There is a fantastic interlude half way through the track as it breaks down into what resembles Bend Me Shape Me by The American Breed before Sharp kicks off again.
Thirst is a mixture of styles, genres and energies, no doubt influenced by the experiences of Waves Of Fury as the debut album by any band will be. But what really marks it out as exciting and special to listen to are the more rooted influences from artists who were performing well before this band knew they would be making music together.
It is an album drenched with soul, undoubtedly upbeat and dripping with both that Motown drive that is irresistibly hard to keep still to and the lo-fi aggression of ’80s garage rock that cuts across you as you listen to it. Somerset may be a little detached and introverted, but Waves Of Fury certainly are not and on this evidence, they can stand proudly with the county’s finest exports.