Live Music + Gig Reviews

Oceansize @ Islington Academy, London

29 September 2005

An immediately striking feature of the Oceansize live experience is theease with which the five boys take to the stage.

It’s almost as if thecrowd are absent, so caught up are the quintet in their own musical world.Nor does this lead to a detachment between band and audience – far from itin fact, as the throng hand on every musical gesture, waiting expectantlyfor the music to erupt.

And it does – frequently. We learnt to beware the songs that startedwith slow, stately tread, as they often gave way to a thrashed-out refrain.In the wrong hands this would be a tired clich, but Oceansize put theirown individual stamp on proceedings, the adrenalin rushes fuelled by singerMike Vennart hurling vocals into one of his two microphones. Attimes it felt like listening to a fusion of the solemnity of Elbowand the pumped, angry guitars of Metallica, truly not as bad as itsounds!

A propensity for time signatures that deviate from the normal four is acharacteristic of the band’s work – five and seven are employed withoutfuss or effort. This may raise the ‘p’ word, but anything progressive aboutthe outfit concerns the here and now, rather than three decades ago.

Sureyou’ll catch echoes of Pink Floyd and even My BloodyValentine but there’s a contemporary edge to their style, a refusal tostick to order in soundscapes that take in ’90s Manchester one minute,Seattle the next. When Vennart dedicates the euphoric You Can’t Keep A BadMan Down to “the greatest band that ever walked this earth” however, thesweepstake plumps for Floyd again.

And while the singer holds court at the front of the stage, requiringminimal interaction with the audience, his band get on with doing what theydo best, energetically riffing in a virtuoso display, doom-laden bass and aspectral set of keyboard sounds the trimmings to enjoy. And that guitarsound! At climax point on more than one occasion the band strum furiouslyas one, their collective heartbeat racing, before suddenly pulling theplug, leaving the shocked audience to pick up the pieces.

It’s more thanappropriate that drummer Mark Herrin is left alone to conclude theset with a mighty closing gesture, delighting the capacity crowd who stayaway from the bar for close on an hour – a sure sign that the band hascaptured their undivided attention.

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More on Oceansize
Oceansize – Frames
Oceansize @ Islington Academy, London
Oceansize – Everyone Into Position
Interview: Oceansize
Oceansize – Effloresce