on 6 January 2011
Oceansize were new to me with this album, a friend posted a Spotify taster and I was instantly seduced. I've taken my eye off the ball lately with music and was beginning to give up on finding anything seriously new or stimulating ... but then THIS.. Weeks on from my first listen and I'm still playing this everyday almost - it's been years since I felt like this about an album, with that rush of excitement. Current favourite track for me -Build us a rocket then... what a rush! (and yes, even better live). Those first three tracks really do power through like a train. They are genre defying - I've read some comparisons, but these only really pick up on the sound - the real beauty of Oceansize is the strength of the songs, ie pure compositional depth, pushing at the most interesting boundaries with fresh ideas. At this level I just don't see anyone else around to compare them with... If Oceansize's next album can make even half as much progress in the next album then surely there is no way they can continue to escape the attentions of the masses. Prepare for global fame and riches guys.
Having said that, aren't they all different? One of the many reasons to love this band...
I have no doubt that this album will have mixed reactions - it's shorter, punchier, louder, softer and dare I use the word 'mature'? (ouch!!)
The real stand out moment has to be opening track 'Part Cardiac' - a slab of pure doomy anger and a brave choice... One which if hearing the band for the first time will not set a realistic expectation to say the least!
There are plenty of 'size moments to savour, particularly on Silent/Transparent, but it's the opening 3 track salvo which literally pins you back in your seat such is the intensity of this latest CD that sets it apart from their previous work. Build us a Rocket then... is simply awesome. Can't wait to hear this live.
We then travel into more familiar sounds with - Oscar Acceptance Speech - an extended string section outro which is almost too long; Ransoms - this sounds like the band are playing live right in front of you - a chilled out moment indeed, and A Penny's Weight - with lovely female harmonies and oddness.
Silent/Transparent is gorgeous and such a nice vocal melody with the obligatory powerful emotional ending (quite something!). It's My Tail is not really that interesting to my ears - I think because it doesn't go anywhere - just three minutes of pure adrenalin with guest vocals from Biffys frontman.
Pine is a personal favourite - just beautiful...so....
It's the back end of the album where things are noticeably different. Fans of the previous three albums will have come to expect a grandiose end - Long Forgotten, Ornaments/The Last Wrongs, The Frame and now we have...oh, hang on... it's a short song. And that's not the only thing - it's also very mellow. And, not particularly memorable. And it's followed by the understated 'Cloak' on the special edition. A bit of a 'What!? Really?' and 'Oh..' ending.
In summary, a blistering opening into some lush, chilled tunes into a very quiet end. Each listen rewards you with you something else and even the close of the album is starting to get there...this one needs some work and it's well worth the effort.
on 7 July 2011
Only time I heard the band live was after the release of Frames and were they loud! Pity that keys and vocals completely drowned in waves of guitar and drum noise. Then came the disappointing Home & Minor and I thought I'd had it with the band. Till recently, just browsing on the net, reading reviews on Self Preserved. Oceansize were, of course, also the hard-working band that gave us Effloresce and Everyone Into Position, so should I not give it one more try? And, yes, Self Preserved is mind-blowing. Just in time, after I heard initial fears coming true (the opening songs are very good but also loud and heavy, quite prog-metal actually) there came some ballads. Well, Ocean-like ballads. Heady stuff. More varied than ever. In fact, their best effort since long. One every new or settled act would be proud of. But again not the breakthrough they had hoped for, because to everyone's surprise they called it a day recently. Hearing all these sub-standard acts around that do make it, one can't help thinking it is an unfair world. Anyway, they leave us with an incredible work. And no one can ever say they did not try.
on 7 September 2010
Reviewing an Oceansize album in its first week of release is always going to be a tricky and wildly inaccurate exercise. Using the epic Frames as reference point, and applying the clichéd Pandora's box notion, you can revisit this score and add an extra point per month until your preferred numerical value is achieved.
Early reviews using track duration as a measure for accessibility are, in my humble opinion, lazy journalism. I doubt we'll be seeing Oceansize on "The One Show" just yet. Thankfully.
Serving as a coarse welcome mat to the new album, "Part Cardiac" sets out with almost deliberate glee to warn off any criticism relating to the softening of the new soundscapes. Devoid of hook or chorus its pounding, dirty, downward progression is accompanied by what can best be described as a lyrical exorcism. So you thought this was going to be an easy ride? Not just yet, a glove slap to rattle the senses is required first.
In stark contrast to the opening middle finger salute, "Superimposer" is probably the most accessible and radio friendly track on the album. It successfully combines a series of signature riffs and sounds from the back catalogue, but still has something fresh to say. The message is delivered in a timely fashion, tickling all the right spots but never quite reaching the peaks that clearly require a bigger climb.
"Build us a rocket then..." hits you with wave after wave of fresh, frenetic, elevating riffs. This reminded me of The Mars Volta when they were in their prime. Not that this sound is borrowed, far from it, but that essence of raw energy is present in abundance. Speeding along at a blistering pace this one left me reeling, and reaching....for the repeat button.
There's time to come up for air as Mike delivers his hauntingly beautiful "Oscar acceptance speech". A vocal showpiece with melancholy overtones to sooth the battered soul. The second portion of this track would not sound out of place as a film score with its gentle and lovingly crafted outro setting the tone for the next chilled track to amble in.
Retrained drum work introduces the watery jazz club at the end of the universe that is "Ransoms". Dip your feet in the sea for a moment and enjoy this rather sedate midpoint to the album. Dark lyrics offset this tranquil escape though, so maybe this is the Oceansize take on what constitutes "the blues".
"A penny's weight" is an ethereal duet that is perfectly balanced with the additional vocals of Claire Lemmon. Without digging too deeply into the lyrics I suspect this may be a gentle exit theme for our end of days. If so, it paints a rather serene portrait with almost childlike innocence.
"Silent/Transparent" is without doubt my favourite track so far from the new album. This is the song that, when performed live will leave a crowd in stunned silence before they can even comprehend applause. The first portion of the song, beautiful as it is, simply lays the foundations for the wave upon wave of guitars that give the album its tallest peak. This is the Oceansize that sends a shiver down my spine and has me gurning like an MDMA fuelled Cheshire cat. If you don't feel it after this one, you're probably looking in the wrong place.
After being left suspended in mid air the next track throws out a brief lifeline with another gentle opening riff. No sooner is the listener firmly lassoed and "It's my tail and I'll chase it if I want to" delivers its full sonic blast. Screaming backing vocals compliment an almost Michael Stipe style narrative delivery while the guitars and bass patiently wait for their moment to pounce. Mark is finally unleashed behind the kit and the percussion keeps everything belting along at a pace that will again leave you wanting more.
"Pine" won't scratch that metal itch, but again welcomes warm vocals set to another semi orchestral sounding track. Some subtle tremolo guitar waves again wash against the back drop of this gentle offering.
A treacle rich bass groove underpins this final track for those without the limited edition version. "Superimposter" is another exercise in restraint, and ultimately time will be the real judge of whether this is a suitable bookend to the album or a slightly downbeat signoff. Being a bass player my opinion here is more than a little biased to the former.
In conclusion this is a fantastic album from one of the UK's finest. I can't wait to see then perform live in Newcastle next week. Sure these are calmer waters than we've come to expect, but the peaks are still present and when they deliver it can easily rival the dizzying altitudes achieved in Frames. This is week one after all, and albums like this are built for far longer journeys.
on 9 September 2010
And I mean that, with no disrespect to those who like Christian rap. I should probably explain to those that think I'm out of my gourd - Oceansize's myspace is highly entertaining and enlightening. I see they've recently made the genre shift from 'Progressive Death-Indie' to 'Christian rap / Healing & Easy Listening' - good for them, they've certainly made it work.
Oceansize are a bit of a conundrum for anyone trying to review them, and I'm definitely no exception. I went after one of their earlier albums in another review and was left grasping for adjectives a little as I tried to describe their sound, who they're similar to, which genre they call their stomping ground - and this, of course, is the point of their ridiculing of genre tags. Oceansize seem to occupy a space between other bands, showing flagrant disregard for anything remotely resembling 'convention'. For the curious, those who've never heard the band, this is the sort of thing you're getting into - a bizarre hybrid of ambient, progressive, jazz, fusion and metal that smashes together in a mish-mash and, vitally, actually works.
I'm a fan of the band, but my excitement for the album was tempered by their previous effort. I would now criticise their earlier two albums moreso than before, for being a bit too fragmented and incoherent, particularly Everyone Into Position. They're still a good listen, but other than a few standout tracks they paled in comparison to the might that was Frames, in my mind. One of only two albums I've ever given a maximum rating for every single track (the other being Eluvium's 'Copia'), it ebbed and flowed beautifully, orchestrated and layered with fantastic attention to detail, and being as catchy as hell with it. After that, I was pretty concerned - how on earth could Oceansize hope to match that with their next album? Surely I'd end up being inevitably disappointed.
Well, the truth is that they didn't, and yet I wasn't, respectively. This latest effort is a very brave move, taking yet another step in musical direction from previous albums and showcasing a heap of different styles to boot. It opens with some seriously heavy gauge guitars, and ends with some truly mellow outings, and the bookends really define this album. I won't go into detail on the tracks, as other reviewers have already done it with more finesse than I could, but the band jumps frequently around the musical spectrum throughout. Vennart's singing and lyrics are both melodic and piercing at times, and the band works extremely well as a whole unit, creating layered soundscapes that either brutalise or cajole the senses. I actually prefer the lighter work on this album, as I immensely enjoyed the mellowed songwriting on the Home & Minor EP, and was hoping for a logical extension with this album. That's certainly not the case, but there are a fair few lighter, borderline jazzy moments hidden amongst this album. Vennart's singing is often more exposed than ever before, rather than being deliberately buried in the mix somewhat - this allows his more gentle singing register to shine, and I think that it suits the new style, particularly on 'Oscar Acceptance Speech', my favourite track.
I see no other option - this album must get a full rating from me. This is severely influenced by my own personal tastes, and other fans of Oceansize that loved Frames may not want to consider this album to be quite as highly rated as 5 stars. And yet, I wouldn't advise utilising the 'try before you buy' mantra, as this remains a very accomplished body of work, and one for any Oceansize fan to purchase. Rest assured, they haven't disappointed in the least (not that anyone really expected them to, surely?!), and have once again blasted apart musical convention, sticking to their guns and making an album that's probably as severe of a departure from Frames as the latter was from EitP.
Have you heard the one about the hipsters that walked into a bar, and ordered the same drink that every other tired old indie band has? Oceansize the barman laughed derisively, flipped them off and starting jamming out whilst grinning maniacally, marking yet another chapter in this unique and fantastic band's history. Buy this.
on 3 April 2013
When Oceansize split, it was a sad loss to British rock music. But at least they left us with this fine epitaph, a fitting conclusion to their brilliant back catalogue. "Self-Preserved..." doesn't grip you in perhaps the same way that the first two albums did, but creeps up on you in the way 3rd album "Frames" did to me.
on 2 November 2010
As a huge fan of previous albums, Self-Preserved really threw me off. Instead of the super-clear, polished sound we got from Frames and Effloresce, the 'Size have flirted a dirtier sound - while at the same time making the loud louder, and the soft softer. While 'SuperImposer' and 'It's My Tail...' will blast your face off, it's the longer tracks of 'Oscar Acceptance Speech' and 'Silent/Transparent' which really highlight the album.
For long-time fans, you won't fall in love with it on first or second listen. Give it a week or two, throw away your previous notions of what Oceansize sound like, then appreciate it for what it really is - a huge tangent from their signature sound, merely showcasing another aspect of their extraordinary song structuring ability.
on 28 January 2011
This record is Oceansize proving once more that they are one of the best bands aroud.
It is heavy and calm at the same time. A master piece, I can say.
If you can, check out the limited edition marble vinyl. It's beautiful!
on 11 November 2010
Oceansize live, are absolutely immense. Every album they have made have all been awesome. How this band remain a secret from the cloth eared general public is obviously a major crime.Buy it now.
on 24 September 2010
I have been a keen fan of Oceansize for a good while now and have been able to pick up most of their back catalogue of singles and albums, and to be quite frank,thought they would have struggled to surpass Frames........but they have with flying colours, SPWTBFU is a masterpiece with great chunks of light and shade, mood swings and ferocious attacks.......this should be a contender for album of the year
congratulations Oceansize you've done it again