When a press release tells me that the album I'm about to review delights in 'cherry picking genres with wild abandon', in my head at least, alarm bells start to go off. Sure, we've all heard far too many albums on which the band or artist have found what they consider to be 'paydirt', slipped into automatic pilot and phoned-in somewhere between eight to 11 versions of the same song, so some shifts in tone or pace can be a positive thing, but that shouldn't be to the detriment to the overall cohesion of an album as a whole piece of work.
There are some great songs on Soft Days, the second full-length studio album from Girls Names and Cruising man Neil Brogan's Sea Pinks. 'Down Dog' grooves along beautifully, with a muscular chorus which, to my ears at least, points to Noel Gallagher (the band will probably not like me saying so, but there we are). 'Yr Horoscope' comes across like the most menacing song Chuck Berry ever dreamed up – a jaunty rhythm section foundation with simple yet perfectly-formed guitars giving Brogan the space to tell the song's subject “Don't ya know the future wouldn't suit ya?” The album's first single, 'Cold Reading', contains elements of the less muscular work of Tim Wheeler and Ash, perhaps in part because of the mix decisions which have been made about the tuning and placement of Brogan's vocal. Not just that though. The vocal melodies are eerily reminiscent of 1977-era Ash. By no means am I suggesting anything artistically improper here, especially as it is clear that the direct influences of the band lie much further back in pop's heritage.
Throughout, as on 'Dream Field', choruses are strong but melodically lost somehow. This could have been an extremely radio-friendly album, but probably was never meant to be. Eminently hummable pop choruses are presented in a way which causes the listener a satisfying amount of work in order that they be properly appreciated. 'Everything in Sight' gives the impression, particularly in its early moments, of coming from a similar place to early period Kooks, albeit a debt swamped in reverb and, as with much of the album, drums which have been mixed in such a forward and bright way as to be dominating. It's unusual to listen to a record on which the ride cymbal and a really full snare sound play such a prominent part.
This is a straightforward, fun album. It lacks cohesion, an over-arching narrative, but it is uncluttered. There has been, it seems, very little addition of unnecessary layers of extra sounds. I can imagine that this album represents pretty fully the way that Sea Pinks would come across live and, with the combination of musicality and energy on show here, I can imagine that they would be a formidable proposition. This album is another positive step in the evolution of an intriguing band.
6Haydon Spenceley's Score