Album Reviews

Tall Ships – Everything Touching

(Big Scary Monsters) UK release date: 8 October 2012

With just a couple of EPs and some extensive touring Tall Ships have created a steadily growing wake of late. Everything Touching revisits past endeavours by including earlier songs such as Books and Ode To Ancestors, albeit in re-recorded form, whilst giving plenty of other evidence that the band’s sonic palette is considerably more expansive than might have been expected.

Initially it would appear that Tall Ships offer little more than a coming together of post-rock ambience and mathy technicality, an impression reinforced by the opening duo of T=0 and Best Ever. T=0 opens with a repetitive math rock riff and endless recycles it against a blur of rumbling drums and booming bass. Clearly taking their cue from the likes of Battles, it is perhaps not the best example of Tall Ships setting their own course. They stick to the task admirably though, setting up carefully crafted emotive surges. At times they even manage to sound a little like an over simplified Oceansize, but falter just as things should be turning pleasingly self-indulgent. Best Ever carries on in a similar vein, scampering along like an anxious heartbeat before opening out into a defiant blast. The closing wall of noise acts as a glorious release from the clever beats and intricacies that precede it.

As impressive (but slightly formulaic) as these opening few minutes are, from this point on things start to get considerably more interesting. Phosphorescence marries Foals like dance/math rock to the kind of anthemic folk practiced by the likes of Broken Records. With the whole folk-gang-chorus singalong having been done to death of late, it teeters precariously on the thin dividing line between genius and appalling, just about falling on the right side. Ode To Ancestors is more delicate, with Ric Phethean’s hushed vocals initially taking centre stage. But even when the spidery guitars and drums kick in, the smartly deployed vocal harmonies maintain the song’s warmth.

When recent single Gallop comes rolling in on the coattails of Ode… it sounds positively euphoric, surprising considering its preoccupation with the process and trauma of getting old. The rolling drums and rousing chorus sugars the pill, whilst Phethean’s rich tones take on an almost Morrissey-esque quality ensuring that the gravitas remains firmly in place.

Books sees the band once again musing on the brief nature of life over a gently undulating ballad that benefits from rousing interjections from a powerful chorus line. “Time is precious” they sing in an ever building refrain. They’re not wrong, and could perhaps do with following their own advice when it comes to the nine-minute closing track Murmurations. It takes for ever to actually get going, and when it finally it does, it meanders about in a vaguely dancey fashion (World In Motion by New Order comes to mind for some reason) until the band decide to head towards the rousing choral conclusion. The only other misfire on the album comes in the shape of Oscar where the combination of angular riffs and syrupy vocals doesn’t quite come off and it ends up shuffling along like a turgid indie-rock tramp.

For the most part, Tall Ships have delivered an album that lives up to the promise of their early EPs. With the ability they have to create heart rending soundscapes whilst being both versatile and intelligent, this impressive debut album should be a launching point for a band that should continue to flourish.

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Tall Ships – Everything Touching