With The Tides
outh is the least trustworthy direction on a compass. Ominously pointing downwards, reminding us of our permanent and inescapable descent on the dumb-waiter of life. No one wants to go south. Southwards lies the road to spending £300,000 on a shed with an outside toilet. Head due south and what do you find? A cop and a Mountie having mismatched adventures with hilarious consequences. And a wolf. Does this record feature wolves? Alas, no. It features three blokes from England making noises of varying prettiness.
Despite being lycanthropically lacking, the brisk quartet of tracks which open With The Tides manage to be surprisingly marvellous. They form a lovely little EP of lushness—featuring just enough textured flourishes to entice the ear, without fumbling into the dank swamp of overproduced sludge. Joel Cadbury merrily climbs and swoops his way around chorus-land, getting more breathy when the mood requires and occasionally managing to sound somewhat reminiscent of a more cheerful Luke Haines. Terrifying as that idea may be. Even the use of ‘whimsical’ banjo in the packet of harmonic pop goodness that is “Loosen Your Hold” manages not to sound too forced. Or remind me of Deliverance.
Strings feature heavily, supported by the kind of acoustic guitar that automatically staples adjectives like ‘warm’ and ‘summery’ all over any track it touches. This is all rather clichéd of course, but when executed well it can’t help but sound pleasing. “Motiveless Crime” turns out like the musical equivalent of a big leafy tree, whilst “Colours in Waves” morphs into the rapidly flipping sprinkler system you used to play in as a kid. If that sprinkler had lots of flange effects. Drowsy reflections on past romance float by in the clouds of “Natural Disasters” and everything seems perfect in our happy garden of pseudo-pop.
But summer days require some bluster, or everyone just falls into a heat-induced coma. Unfortunately, rather than maintaining the finely balanced opening majesty and delivering an entire afternoon of gorgeously sunny tunes, the record wanders off into sub-Keaneian efforts of blandness. From the last fade of “Natural Disasters” to the first light of final track “Threadbare” it’s a struggle to recall any genuinely memorable moments. “Same Old Story” valiantly attempts to slap things out of the spiral of snooze with a bit of volume, but it’s simply not enough.
Lacking any kind of real hold, the vast majority of With The Tides disappears into that special area of consciousness that deals with being able to listen to music without actually hearing a single note. It’s something of a shame, judging by the early promise of the initial material, but once you vacuum out the fluff there’s barely half an album left. What remains may well be as joyful as a frolicking child in the height of school holiday fever, but the excess is as sombre as the inevitable September comedown.