Victories At Sea represent a certain synth-pop bombast, something found readily in White Lies and Chapel Club once upon a time. They are an unashamed re-rendering of that transcendent movement towards the epic, the holistic, the heart-swellingly "complete" – as their album’s title would readily prove. Opening track ‘Bloom’ announces their stance on this with a metaphorical fanfare, while second track ‘Florentine’ slips them back into safer, 'Holy Fire' territory – disco drums, synth throbs, and vocals jumping between staccato, falsetto and just plain full. ‘Florentine’, despite the accomplishment with which it has been arranged and produced, never quite lives up the promise of the band, due to the fact it’s too far into Foals territory to be considered on its own merits.
This is a problem at several points through the album; their influences and sonic contemporaries tend to get in the way of any real innovation occurring in the music. 'The Drive' soundtrack-reminiscent synths are a touch of wonderful nostalgia and depth worth plumbing for all the individual uniqueness they offer, but they’re clouded by faux-Yannis vocals, Pet Shop Boys drum samples and White Lies B-side-material sounds. ‘Swim’ is of the album’s worst offenders in this regard, though it’s still run through with a sense of urgency that carries you quite a way before you realise the crime.
These moments aside, the album is a refreshing take on the synth-pop genre. ‘Up’, while a song that relies on what feels like reconditioned ideas, pumps with aggressive synth tones no one else would dare to include in a pop song (Taylor Swift tried, and pussied out), and drops an unexpected guitar lead that intrigues as well as enthuses. Album closer ‘Sirens’ broods with sine-wave bass and swollen melodies from the other side of a large chamber before kicking up into a Nicholas Winding-Refn soundtrack throb, creating one of the album’s few unique moods and making it incredibly affecting in the process.
It’s easy to crap on music of this ilk, especially when done badly. But Victories At Sea haven’t done it badly; in fact, they’ve done it rather well. ‘Everything Forever’ is no chore to listen to, but it can be very easy to become mired in those precious moments where their music drops seemingly into tribute-territory.