Tuesday 4 February 2014

Whales In Cubicles - Death In The Evening

Album review by jay@thesoundofconfusion.com

An album can be a long time coming. A band drops successive releases that heighten your excitement with each new song pleasuring your ears. Then before you know there are 4,5,6 songs out there, floating in the ether for you to pick out, jumble up and enjoy anyway you want. Then the album is given a date. So you wait. And wait a bit more. Then somewhere the tracklisting is put up. You realise that you've heard half the album, maybe more. Then the day arrives any you eagerly press play. 40 minutes later you are are a bit deflated. Disappointed. All that waiting, like waiting for a friend to arrive after a few years, life has moved you on and you now see they are a bit of a cock. So the album goes into the collection. "At least I can always see them live", you think to yourself. Whales In Cubicles have released into the wilds, six of the ten songs on their debut album 'Death In The Evening'. In no way does it lead to the album being placed into the collection. It simply allows you to see the home where they should of always been. How they flow, the artist's vision of their art. In no way is the album detracted by familiarity, if anything the songs are enhanced by being in there natural surroundings.

'Yesterday's News' snaps your synapses back with a blistering blast of Deal-esque bass propelling you head-first into the song's velvet crush. It hammers up into submission with Goliath drums and the best, yet obtuse, use of organ heard in a long time. A blistering guitar burns the air up and the song pounds you into breathless, glorious, submission. Hurried, urgent, yet with a loose seductive edge 'We Never Win' washes in. It has a sense of brooding, of circumstances pushing you to walk closer to the edge than you ever dared, beckoning you to jump, and when 'We Never Win' steps up and leads you over that ledge, rather than fall, it takes you up higher and higher, with an air and rush of exhilarating, cathartic exorcism of demons. If 'We Never Win' is the battle to leave it behind, then 'All The Pretty Flowers' is the trip through the midnight blue skies. There is a cinematic, near voyeuristic quality as we hear of "watching from a distance", as if catching glimpses of the lives unfurling below. Pleading "really hope that kid pulls through" as we watch over him again, then in a blink of an eye, move on. There is a melodic beauty within the ebbs and flows that lifts it all to the quietly powerful end.

'Golden Medal' is rawer, more driving, but not at the cost of impact of the song. It is a master class in alt-rock. There is a low slung rumbling bass, squalling guitars flash-mob you before the chorus drenches you in a compelling, raw, melodic wash that envelopes you like a golden slumber. We are then given are sweet, gentle respite before a whirlwind of ragged guitars take you out in a supernova of barely controlled, beautiful noise. If we are talking in old terms then 'Across America' is the closing song of the A-side, and it perfectly marks the halfway. It is the most straightforward track so far, with loose Americana undercurrents before singer Stef Bernardi unleashes a feral howl matching the late Jeff Buckley. And as 'Across America' expands it could easily sit alongside of Buckley's 'Grace'. 'Across America' is an evocative, empiric powerhouse of a song, and a highlight among an album full of them. Anything following such a rush was always going to struggle to hold your attention, 'Disappear' doesn't give you a falter in quality, only on initial listen it almost suffers from what preceded it. Then with another listen you realise it is a uncut diamond sparkling and glistening without having to be polished. It has one of the album's most irresistible melodies, and by the third play is buried deep into you.

To me, follower 'Nowhere Flag' had one of the best videos of last year, then that matters not when heard in its true context. It fights 'Disappear' for the biggest hook of the album, with some simply huge "woohs" and riffs so bright you have to wear shades. 'Wax & Feathers' was one of my songs of last year, and hearing it here is like falling into your lover's kiss; enticing, warm, and always slightly breathtaking. Sending pulses of excitement through you, it is a journey that you cannot but close your eyes and loose yourself too. It ends with echoes of feedback, leaving you breathless and stunned at its scope. As you play through 'I Knew It', you have the sense that it may be a little pedestrian; not a weak song, but not shining as strongly as the others, then it twists and turns and captures you, leaving you with a sense of fulfilment that you doubted slightly at the start. Then to the end, and closer 'Find Your Way'. Oft the word "epic" is overused, and frequently tagged onto anything that is longer than five minutes, and has an Edge-like echo chiming in it. But 'Find Your Way' truly encapsulates epic. It is over eight minutes and not a second of that is wasted. It is so complete, structured, concise, that truly only listening will really let you feel how mesmerizing it is. And it is so strong that it puts Whales in Cubicles next to Radiohead, Buckley, Pumpkins. With 'Death In The Evening' we have been given an album so good, that it shouldn't be a debut. You'd only expect this quality much later. If you want an album to start your year properly then this is it.

Whales In Cubicles' website

Buy the album

Catch them live:

05/02/2014 - Cookie Jar, Leicester

06/02/2014 - Moles, Bath

07/02/2014 - The Prince Albert, Brighton

13/02/2014 - Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London

14/02/2014 - Sixty Million Postcards, Bournemouth

15/02/2014 - Start The Bus, Bristol
17/02/2014 - Joiners, Southampton

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