Monday 30 December 2013

The Martha's Vineyard Ferries - Mass. Grave

Album review by

Maybe it's my imagination, but there seems to have been an awful lot of collaborative projects and supergroups floating around of late. Most notable from our point of view are the superb Black Hearted Brother who produced one of the albums of the year. Moving away from dreamy space-rock and closer to classic US alt-rock, lo-fi and grunge sounds are The Martha's Vineyard Ferries who consist of Elisha Wiesner of the band Kahoots on guitar, Bob Weston who's featured in Shellac and Mission Of Burma amongst others on bass, and Chris Brokaw who's also a man who's played with several bands, perhaps most notably Codine, along with his solo work. All three have connections to Martha's Vineyard with Wiesner calling the island home, and their name is taken from the main means of transport to and from Massachusetts outpost. The gritty guitar blast of these seven songs lends itself to several comparisons, but they can be easily found by delving into the musical history of the three members; there's no plan here to take themselves totally off piste and subsequently 'Mass. Grave' could have been recorded at any point from the late 1980s until now. A lazy move or a trio simply doing what they do best? We'd have to say the latter. You'd be pretty disappointed if The Rolling Stones returned with a hip-hop album, plus this particular strain of rock music has been undergoing a revival (if it ever really went away) of late, so this album fits snugly into the current musical landscape and surpasses many of the new artists looking to follow a similar path.

It's unlikely they'll be winning awards, but it's unlikely that was the goal; by the sounds of things the aim of The Martha's Vineyard Ferries was to gather some like-minded souls and get some decent tunes laid down. With that being the case, 'Mass. Grave' is pretty difficult to pick holes in. The scuzz of bass and guitar starts the record with the opening bars of 'Wrist Full Of Holes' which then lays down some harmonies and near-psychedelic effects for the chorus. It's not a spectacular entry, but it's a mighty fine one nonetheless. It also sums up the album in a way: there's little here with an obvious "wow" factor, but likewise there's nothing that falls short, and with a couple of listens under your belt it all falls into place and reveals itself to be a stellar effort. The grungy 'Parachute' again piles on the distortion and gives off a constant warming hum with a top melody emerging as it progresses.

The unholy 'She's A Fucking Angel (From Fucking Heaven)' is catchy and lively, offering perhaps the most accessible moment despite lyrics such as "I had sex with the devil" and the obvious other aspects that would prevent widespread radio play. DJs looking for a safer way in should probably be directed to 'Ramon And Sage' which also has all the right hallmarks of an easily absorbed and fuzzily melodic alternative hit; the chugging 'Blonde On Blood' is also a satisfying track for those looking for some music with a little more meat on its bones. There's a definite nod to the early US punk scene when it comes to 'Look Up', a song that could have been a Ramones cover filtered through some speakers that don't quite have the capacity to deal with the volume of sound being thrust out of them. Naturally it comes in at under two minutes. The one and only slowie wraps up the album, but 'One White Swan' is no dull ballad or attempt at soppy reflection. You could perhaps call it a cousin to, say, 'Hotel lounge' by dEUS or other post-grunge anthems of a similar quality. 'Mass. Grave' is a mild flashback, but not one without roots in the present, and most importantly it's not a record that will let you down.

The Martha's Vineyard Ferries' website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album

Catch them live:

Thurs, Jan 9 Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
Fri, Jan 10, The Plough and Stars, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Sat, Jan 11, Death By Audio, Brooklyn, New York

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