Yep…no cheap rented rehearsal rooms or jam sessions in your mates garage for this lot, they used to play shows aboard the ship as a means of practicing and tightening as a band, honing their craft as they travelled; not technically on the road per se but it’s one way I guess to get that vital stage experience, and it’s far more glamorous than playing to 3 people down the local pub! The EP itself (While not their debut) was a fine sample of soulful indie pop and could have easily tapped into the buzz around RAG ‘N’ BONE MAN’s success at the time…so let’s see what they’ve done in the time that’s passed.
As it happens, they’ve released not one, but two EP’s since we last caught up with them; last years “Woman” EP and now new to 2019 they’ve released another by the simple title of “Mad”, so they’re seemingly going for the little and often approach. The question is though, how mad are we talking exactly? Where is the context? Let’s find out as we get the EP underway with the title track. It’s got a quite stripped back vibe with initially minimal instrumentation and smooth vocals, combining low-fi indie with a shoe-gaze aesthetic and it’s incredibly mellow. The chorus does have a bit more oomph behind it as the guitars get bigger and bolder and the vocals become much more impassioned; it’s a decent start.
The EP continues then with “Mistakes” and again here we’re given a mellow, minimal piece of music with emotive vocals carrying the song…a reflective little track about life lessons in love, and learning from the inevitable mistakes we will all make at some point or another; quaint but not much different from the opener really. “20” again takes a similar approach but at least incorporates subtle country-guitar in the tracks climax, and although that’s hardly a drastic departure from their usual style, it’s enough to make a noticeable difference to the listening experience. We then finish up on the closing track “Good Excuse” and it’s a good excuse as any for me to admit that my interest has sadly waned by this point. Another slow, minimalistic soft indie-pop piece with tenuous soulful elements layered within.
The disappointing thing here isn’t really about this EP to be quite frank; it’s about the band themselves…in the couple of years that have passed since, despite still managing to write lovely, twee little songs with butter-wouldn’t-melt melodies, they’ve seemingly made little progress if not gone a bit backwards. Their earlier material was at least a bit more enthusiastic and the soulful elements of their writing was just that; soulful…I’m not saying that they went all-out gospel and could raise the roof, (They ain’t no ‘Sister Act’) but their sound at least had more energy. It’s that very energy that draws you in as a listener; both motivating and uplifting…here we get none of that.
Despite this though the bands core sound and writing style has remained more or less the same, and over the course of a couple of EP’s, they’ve essentially released one album spread across three years. Despite the tonal differences between these and previous tracks, if shuffled together they could all easily make up one cohesive record and no one would really guess it was a compilation…a bit like ED SHEERAN’s music in some aspects. This EP may very well be “Mad”, but this reviewer on the other however is just sad.