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This review is from: Self-Preserved While The Bodies Float (Audio CD)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.