Tall Ships Everything Touching(Banquet Records) Buy it from Insound
It’s fitting to say that Falmouth’s Tall Ships have been steadily coursing their own path for the past five years. By way of relentless touring backing any band under the sun, the three piece have remolded the improvisational intricacies of their first two EPs into a broader, yet more tightly compacted element that aims to reach high. The first wrinkles of maturity are starting to show for a band that has repeatedly questioned their own sound, perhaps due to them coming from a musical climate that has turned its back on what they’ve been trying to achieve. Over thinking things too much can bring about that effect, especially if trying to outpace the ears of the young. So they’re going to have to settle with a smart, incisive effort that will hopefully leave a mark for those who like their anthems to actually mean something.
The latest uproar over the reemergence of Godspeed You! Black Emperor proves that there’s still a market for guitar noodling expansiveness. And on the other end there’s Two Door Cinema Club, who take pride in stamping their jittery choruses with a metallic polish. So Tall Ships may benefit from dumb luck as their sound exists between these two poles, but a closer look reveals they’re not tilting for either. Their first single off Everything Touching actually bows reverence to the math rock progenitors of yore – T=O, which even reads like a complex equation, repeatedly strikes a finger tapping riff over Ric Phetean’s whispered vocals until its grinding rhythm section pulls up the curtain. They continue this pattern in the instrumental Best Ever, which gets the point across by causing a short circuit flash alongside a strapping drum rattle before it winds down into a false ending. And then all motions come into full force in extravagant style before it truly ends.
However, Tall Ships won’t let themselves be defined that easily, as Everything Touching expands upon the eclectic nature of their past EPs with a clearer sense of focus. It also erases the stigma that they’re mid-noughties nostalgists writing songs for hip-minded dance clubs. In a song like Oscar, they’re keen articulating the twinkling, knotty melodies of Doug Martsch with a dash of emo, which they manage to warm themselves into quite proficiently. But they’ll keep the listener guessing even when they’re midway through a song, and just when you think it’ll turn weighty it actually soars into a climactic outro. Other times, the change of pace doesn’t work – the berserk celebratory assault of Ode to Ancestors tries to incite a call and response sing-along with tireless repetition like your usual We Were Promised Jetpacks track. And when they intend to bring atmosphere into the picture, like in Idolatry, with its arpegiatted chords and steady crescendos, it acts like a sedative instead of a chemically induced stimulant.
But sometimes a song can elevate an album’s mission statement in all regards, and Tall Ships achieve it with the sweeping Gallop. Phetean’s delicate falsetto couldn’t be a better fit with the song’s pondering on living an unfulfilled life and how it narrates one’s mortality. Phetean is an astute lyricist that knows how to write with the heart without sounding mawkish, and his sentiment on giving yourself to history over the passage the time couldn’t be any more poignant. And what could be said about that persisting Burundi beat, which marches along into a bittersweet finale that may very well affirm your life’s purpose for at least three and a half minutes. A perfect song that otherwise emphasizes a promising debut that is just bursting with ideas. Tall Ships are still navigating in search of their ideal destination, and their second voyage may prove to be an even more enriching one.17 October, 2012 - 14:47 — Juan Edgardo Rodriguez