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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Interview - Big Oceans~, s/t*

Name: Interview
Album(s): Big Oceans~, s/t (Snakes & Lovers)*
Year(s): 1979~, 1980*
Style: New Wave, Smooth Pop, Singer/Songwriter
Similar Bands: Graham Parker, Aztec Camera, A's, Daddy Licks, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello, Dramarama
"One Word" Review: Nazal-Smooth Pop-Wave
Based Out Of: Bath, England
Label: Virgin, Atlantic, Warner
Big Oceans - Cover & Sleeve
Big Oceans - Back & Sleeve Notes
Big Oceans - Record
s/t - Cover & Record
s/t - Back & Record

Big Oceans (1979)~
  1. You Didn't Have to Lie to Me 3:12
  2. Here Come the Cavalry 4:25
  3. Feet Start Walking 2:30
  4. Love Fallout 3:47
  5. Fire Island 4:40/
  6. Academies to Anger 3:41
  7. Blow Wind from Alesund 3:00
  8. St Jean Wires 4:56
  9. Hart Crane in Mexico 3:45
  10. Shipyards 4:52
S/T (1980)*
  1. Adventures 4:50
  2. Hope It's Me 3:45
  3. Hide & Seek 2:58
  4. Crossing Borders 3:16
  5. It's Over Now 3:18
  6. Union Man 3:30 /
  7. To The People 3:39
  8. A Gift 4:38
  9. The Conqueror 4:10
  10. Style on Seaview 4:12
  11. Until I Hold Her 7:20
Album Rating (1-10): ~ 7.5
*6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Pete Allerhand - Guitar, Keys, Vox
Alan Brain - Guitar, Vox, Sleeve Concept~
Jeff Starrs - Vox
Manny Elias - Drums
Phil Crowther - Bass~
Alfie Agius - Bass, Vox*
Colin Thurston - Producer~ (Duran Duran, Kajagoogoo)
Arnold Frolows - Executive Producer~
Ansell Sadgrove - Design~
Marlis Duncklau - Vox*
Pete Wingfield - Piano, Synth, Hammond, Clavinet*
Mick Glossop - Producer,Engineer*
Roger Stowell - Photography*

Unknown-ness: I had never heard of these guys. I got the two albums at different times, not even knowing or remembering each one. I got the spotted, self titled album first, mostly because of the picture of the band on the cover. The rest of the album looks to be too 80’s – in a bad way, for my taste, but I liked to take a chance on it, also because of the year. But on Big Oceans, the minimal artwork is bright and the font for the band looks pretty cool too.

Album Review: “You Didn't Have to Lie to Me” begins with a pleasant smooth rock intro, akin to Aztec Camera and college radio music, with light rock harmonized vocals. There is a large adult contemporary vibe to this, and the lead vocals are sung in a nasally urgency, similar to Graham Parker, or like a very light Elvis Costello. The songs have a very minimal produced sound that floats by.
“Here Come the Cavalry” had a bold 80’s new wave, but the production is so light and wispy, that its potency is completely lost. The nasally vocals and harmonized background still sound good, but it is like an impression of new wave rock music. There is a heart beat pulse breakdown halfway through the song, and the bass kicks in giving it more of an edge, but the jangely guitar does nothing to bolster that power. This could have been a really great song with a youthful production.
“Feet Start Walking” is a slower, near-ballad sentimental song that beckons the feeling of a doo-wop love-lost song. The vocals have an honest emotion, and the minimal music actually helps accent that in this song in a good way.
“Love Fallout” has a nice bouncy upbeat progression, and the lead guitar does its own things within the boundary of the bass. The melody is catchy and feels like it is going to explode into an ultimately catchy chorus at any second. The chorus instead turns into something like adapted-disco.
“Fire Island” starts with the jangley 80’s guitar and the vocals are hushed, until the song builds up to its full force. It is still near-disco and harmonized vocals here in the chorus. There are some neat ideas with the bass and guitar in the instrumental sections, but it’s the production, being drawn and quartered between new wave, light adult contemporary rock, and popular disco. If they would have embraced the nasally, high-energy vocals, and tuned down the harmonized vocals and disco themes, the album would be a classic. The song ends with an ambulance siren like guitar

“Academies to Anger” has a slightly buzzing guitar in the background and a thin watery bass in the front. The drums carry the danceable beat and the bass soon follows. This song, produced differently, could have been a rival to XTC’s energy and style.
“Blow Wind from Alesund” begins like a Duran Duran song without the thick electronic wall of synth. It quickly turns into a prog song, at least for the chorus, the over all theme of the song is a sneaky, dark groove, like “Watching the Detectives” or another sly theme.
“St Jean Wires” is a slow stumbling theme, pushed along by drums and flopsy bass. This is a day break, sun rising ballad, still full of the adult contemporary production. For a 5 minute song, it is pretty tedious.
“Hart Crane in Mexico” comes back and revisits a Duran Duran like intro, but the song evolves into a Middle America rock anthem. It is a bit smoky and a bit dancy, but the guitars are still too light in production for their own good.
“Shipyards” feels aquatic, with its partially liquid guitar sound. The pace of the song is similar to the ambulance siren tempo of “Accidents Will Happen.” The chorus has different sections cleverly woven together, where, just when you think the final note has been struck, the melody starts over again under a different layer of music. It is one of those songs that could go on forever. The instrumental section presents a large, heavy and repetitive bass hook, sounding like a tanker’s horn. Interwoven is a lighter keyboard sound like a littler ship trying to dock as well. This is perhaps the most complicated and interesting song on the album and it sounds good within its own production.

“Adventures” begins the second album, this the American version, titled and organized differently from the UK release. It follows suit with more light production, identifiable right off the bat. Even the urgentness in the vocals is gone. The nasaliness is there, however, he sounds reserved and calm. The bass is two-note simple, the kick drum gives no thrust and the keyboards are adequate at best. The chorus is ballad-catchy, meaning slow and lofting, but not all that fun. It almost feels like it was written to be performed by the groom at a cheesy wedding in an 80’s movie.
“Hope It's Me” comes back with a more funky 80’s synth fast number. The synth is jittery, even if the wave/arc of the jitteriness is slight. But there is an unnatural smoothness to the song’s structure, where it should bear its teeth more, rather than slink down to a Billy Joel story song. The bridge into the chorus is catchy with a bit of extra energy, but over all it falls flat.
“Hide & Seek” dabs its feet into country with the sound of the bass. But the song sounds like a typical singer songwriter song, with its roots growing back into an Oldies style. Here it’s simple design works in its favor. And I have since reconsidered the country style bass to be much more fitting to the song, after its third visit to the mix. The chorus is very head nodding catchy. There is still a lot of Graham Parker in the sound.
“Crossing Borders” sounds like it is basically the same song as “Hide & Seek,” but slightly rearranged in its outset. But this is lighter and not as fun. And not as catchy either. This song sounds more like a piano songwriter’s specialty, with one guitar hook overlaid repetitively.
“It's Over Now” starts out with a revisiting the same guitar hook from “Crossing Borders.” It is more upbeat of a song, but feels a little tedious and repetitive in a bad way.
“Union Man” is a soft piano ballad, like a lesser version of Elvis Costello’s later sentimental work. It really is like a demo, as the music is so sparse. But I imagine that was the key with the very quiet production.

“To The People” rocks back into shape as much as Interview rocks. This initially strikes me as a straightforward rock song, with slight harmonies, and a steady driving beat, and nothing too memorable or catchy. Well, perhaps the chorus is a bit catchy in a repetitive sing song way, which actually makes for a good chorus.
“A Gift’s” vocals are a bit different than the rest of the album. It is the same, but even more nasally, British and higher pitch. The melody is nice, but it does not need to be shoved down out throats, as it is guided with the in your face keyboard melody. And this is the first time where the singer breaks form and talks through some of the lyrics. And the over all vibe of the song would have to be categorized as anthemic.
“The Conqueror” is a slow bluesy waltzing ballad. Its lyrics easily evoke imagery of the storyline. This is more singer/songwriter folk storytelling at its most elemental form. The emotion of the vocals is quite clear, not buried under the music at all.
“Style on Seaview” feels long winded and like filler to me. There a steady beat broken once in a while by a brief pause and energy build, which is quickly relinquished for the steady tempo. The instrumental section is filled with a medieval/Spanish sounding plucked guitar. And the song reminds me of throwaway Dramarama slow ballads.
“Until I Hold Her” is a long 7:30 epic song that is a bit divergent from the rest of the album at its onset. It possesses an overproduced slyness, but that mood is never altered of overcome. It slinks along into a deeper hazy unsureness, the metaphoric rantings of continued drunkenness and deeper slinking down in the corner booth at a favorite dive bar. It oozes classless and an unavoidable downward spiraling feeling.

Stand Out Tracks: ~Shipyard

Links:
Allmusic

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