Since their previous studio EP featured in our Stubble section, Newcastle's In Oceans have started to grow beyond technical acrobatics and utilise their tenacity to serve the songs rather than divert from them. 'Jack The Lad' takes the band ever closer to a definitive sound.
The influence of Cedric and Omar is still writ large, but for all the progressive shifts, In Oceans know when to lock into a hook and, lyrically at least, display a very British romanticism. They don't dive head first into pit fodder riffs: the syncopation of 'Ex/Why/Zed' bounces from wall to wall before wailing free-jazz paves the way for a stirring dual axe finish. 'Facemelter' has all the runaway chaos of prime Dillinger Escape Plan, collapsing into angular fragments then whipping itself up into pandemonium. Someone is on the wrong end of some serious bile: “Forking out money on frivolous charms / breaking every damn bone in your ungrateful mouth.” There is subtle guitar invention at work on 'Buzzards', which hangs its scratchy breakdowns and spiraling leads on a mind-burrowing chorus of “I'm withering slow / Addicted, alone/ It's killing me / Please save the wishing/ The wishing well”.
Although it seems that 'Glass Fingers' is a conscious attempt to scale back the volatility and really go for it on something relatively straight-up and direct, it's the one song on the EP that doesn't really have an impact on me. It blurs into a kind of grey smudge, with nothing particularly remarkable jumping out. Closer 'Jack The Lad' more than makes up for this though, and suggests that In Oceans can advance in any number of future directions. The high register vocal intro (bringing to mind Jeff Buckley or even Jaime Harding of Marion. Remember them? Oh, well...) could have been disastrously hammy or overdone; vocalist Matt Cooper nails it square on the head. Musically, it's the equivalent of stepping out of the storm into a secluded reef. A considerable departure, it eschews distortion in favour of watery shimmers and unearthly arpeggios.
Once again, it may take a few listens to fully acclimatise to nuances of the songs, but invest the time and there is a rich vein of modern rock inspiration to suck up.
Posted: Mon 12 March 2012