The world would seem to be Haven’s oyster right now. Ever since Travis went interstellar in 1999, it seems that every year throws up another set of understated melodic bands, complete with soaring guitars and heart-rendering lyrics about unrequited love. It was Coldplay in 2000, Elbow and Turin Brakes appeared last year, and now, just one month into the new year, along come Haven.
Haven are from Cornwall, but to all intents and purposes, they may as well be honorary Mancunians. Managed by Joe Moss, who used to manage The Smiths and Marion, and produced by Johnny Marr, they certainly have some pedigree talent working with them. The question is whether they have the songs to back it up.
The album starts off in fine style with debut single ‘Beautiful Thing’ and, from the outset, it’s clear that Gary Briggs’ remarkable voice is a big part of what makes Haven sound so impressive. Briggs has a wavering falsetto that gives ‘Beautiful Thing’ a huge, epic sound. The influence of Johnny Marr is also clear, with Nat Watson’s guitar work to the fore.
Things get even better with ‘Say Something’ which is a very early contender for single of the year. This has already been given plenty of radio play on Radio One recently, and there’s absolutely no reason why the song couldn’t be as ubiquitous as Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ was. It’s regretful, melancholic, and yet somehow strangely uplifting, and is by far and away the best track on the album.
However, Haven do seem to fall into the same trap as Elbow in that they don’t seem to have enough memorable songs to make up a full album. Like Embrace, Haven are at their best when they concentrate on ballads. Unlike Embrace, they obviously know this and therefore stick to a formula. Sometimes, this works perfectly, as on the aforementioned ‘Say Something’, and on the beautiful ‘This Is Bliss’.
Unfortunately, there are a few too many songs that are rather anonymous and tend to float by without making any real imprint on the listener, such as ‘Out of Reach’. The closing ‘Holding On’ attempts to sound like a classic, epic album closer, but just comes across as a bit overwrought and self-indulgent.
Nevertheless, this is nit-picking a very promising debut album. Although some tracks have a tendency to sound a bit similar, that never held Travis or Coldplay back. And there’s a welcome darker edge to this album that suggests that Haven may well be more than the ‘earnest young men with guitars’ label suggests.
If you’re looking for a rest from the seemingly constant diet of Pop Idols, wannabe gangster garage and nu-metal, this could well be your perfect Haven.