Theyâ€™ve been compared to both Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Arcade Fire, but neither is really an accurate way to understand the music of The Strange Death Of Liberal England. What is easy to understand is that this album of frenetic, alt.rock sea shanties is that rare breed – a collection of songs that both hit you immediately and also grow with each listen!
While the songs here all stand on their own two feet, the loose maritime theme (an apt one as the band hail from the south coast) binds the album and makes it an interesting listen as a cohesive whole.
Front man Adam Woolwayâ€™s unique vocal may scare the odd listener away, but the strain and anguish in his voice propels you further into the bands world. The lyrics help too, with the band unafraid to shy away from pretty strong imagery, such as on their last single Flagships – â€œI walk on water but I’d rather sink / Tie my hands to my body and jump into the sea/ Run to the edge and jump off the pier / I said there’s nothing left, nothing left around here.â€
If youâ€™ve seen the band live then youâ€™ll understand the hint of the baroque that hangs over them – as I write this they are preparing to headline one stage of a local festival inside a theatre, with an orchestra backing them. Nonetheless, for all the melodrama this is a surprisingly restrained piece. At times the band feel like a cocked gun, held back but begging to explode. Of course with the Richard P. Horn orchestra along for the ride thereâ€™s less chance of the freeform madness of some of their early work.
The one downside of reviewing an album like this is the difficulty in cherry picking a few obvious highlights to write about. This has nothing to do with a weakness in the songs but shows that the album works best as a cohesive whole. Aside from the aforementioned Flagships, the strongest stand alone tracks would be current single Rising Sea and the excellent Like A Curtain Falling, a song hand built to have audiences singing along with the chorus. The rest of the tunes, from the sombre yet catchy Shadows to the excellently titled Come On You Young Philosophers, each tell their own tale. Ultimately though, while it makes the reviewers like a touch harder, it makes for much more interesting music to consume.
The more I listen to the album, the more it drags me in, and if you give it a chance, itâ€™ll do the same to you – gripping and not letting go as it whips you into the musical maelstrom like a typhoon!
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