On Fire, With Love
eachange could fit easily into the post-punk revival crowd. They’ve got the martial drumming, angular riffs, and regionally accented vocals (Nottingham) and, when in doubt, can even whip out a passable Bloc Party impression (“No Backward Glances”). What separates the group from Essex’s finest (and others) is their disregard for cold musical precision, opting instead for a slightly looser, more dissonant sound.
“Annie, Tacoma” is a perfect example. There’s a straightforward, catchy song in there somewhere, but more attention is given over to the band’s two guitarists, Dave Gray and Adam Cormack, who pay only intermittent attention to the central riff. They’re more interested in drowning the track in distortion, secretly competing to achieve the most piercing, drawn-out feedback squeal as the other four members carry on impassively. It’s utterly enthralling and addictive, with the contrast to the scrawny surroundings only adding power to their assault. They’re never given quite such free reign again, but the duo are undoubtedly the stars of On Fire, With Love.
It’s largely their efforts that keep “Battleground”’s “Here are my arms and here is my heart” chorus from sappiness. “Youth And Art” hinges on their intersecting, stabbing riffs and “Punch and Judy”’s tension-building is marked every step of the way by their guitar crunches. “The Key” tones down their contribution, giving way to Dan Eastop’s precisely enunciated vocal, but Gray and Cormack provide a constant hint of menace in the background—until they’re let loose for a furious second chorus.
Seachange have other tricks up their sleeve. “Christmas Letters” comes equipped with a keyboard-led wall of sound that explodes from its chorus. The subdued procession of “Shooting Arrows” is like a warmer and grimier Interpol. Frantic drumming powers “No Backward Glances” for most of its length, though it still reaches a seething guitar climax. A couple of weakly strummed numbers successfully kill the mood—here the group could pass for any number of British indie nobodies—but the album is sequenced so that they more often act as breathers rather than serious blights.
The more likely sticking point for listeners is Eastop’s ungainly, speak-sung vocals and his fractured, wordy lyrics. There are moments to be grateful that he’s normally subsumed by noise, not least in “The Key” where his attempt at a cool swagger falters on lines like “You have the sweetest ways, deistic sways and a perfectly holistic demeanor.” More often than not, though? He actually winds up endearing, especially because he seems to have a touching awareness of his own ridiculousness. Besides, “I keep falling in love with only children, no kinship, rivalry makes for… more infatuation with me” would never work so well with a more confident sounding voice. Or “Your new attitude, it’s ruthless, edgy, it makes me horny / But then so does speciality soap and German coffee” for that matter.
Reviewed by: Iain Forrester
Reviewed on: 2006-10-19