Saturday, 10 September 2011

REVIEW: Airship - Stuck In This Ocean

Airship are a fine group who hail from the northern city of Manchester and who formed in around 2007/2008. The band regard Animal Collective and Wild Beasts as influences, but much of 'Stuck in this Ocean' recalls a more reverb-drenched New Order, as well as hints of Radiohead, early Verve and Doves (whose last album was produced by Dan Austin, who oversees production on this album). The tender verses and soaring melancholy choruses are delivered by Elliot Williams' emotive voice that at times brings to mind Ryan Adams or Starsailor (and do NOT think of that as a bad thing).

The album opens with the upbeat rhythms and towering synths of the single 'Algebra', a fine piece of songwriting and a clear display of Airship's musical intelligence. 'Invertibrate' bounces along gracefully and isn't too far away from Arcade Fire but with a unique northern British edge. Elsewhere 'Kids' is a little bit like The Smiths doing Radiohead's 'High And Dry' until it explodes into its stratospheric chorus and 'Gold Watches' has lovely analogue synths and a beautifully sad melody.

'Spirit Party' takes a riff that' somewhere between The Pixies and The Stone Roses and pairs it with more huge synths that sound like they've been beamed down from heaven, while the backing vocals hint at the Klaxons or indeed The Horrors. In fact fans of the recent Horrors album 'Skying' may certainly enjoy parts of this record, such as the almighty psychedelic shoegaze of 'The Trial Of Mr Riddle'. Its slow-building atmospherics begin with a seductive dreamy guitar line before the yearning vocal arrives and takes it into a lovely chorus. Then about halfway through it evolves into a rather spaced out epic as guitars screech and the rhythm becomes faster and more intense. The final few minutes could almost be something from Mogwai's latest album.

More brilliant use of vintage analogue synths during the intro to 'Organ', which turns into a sweet and uplifting moment, with its breezy yet melancholic fizz and a chiming guitar hook almost reminiscent of Coldplay. 'Test' is powered by a quirky riff and a chorus that embraces 80's pop melodies, while 'Vampires' begins with a gentle vocal, an almost Joy Division-esque bassline and hypnotic keyboards before another simple yet clever riff carries it to another level. 'This Is Hell' brings another stunning guitar line that recalls the Jesus & Mary Chain's sweeter moments and is a beautiful song that shows how good Airship are at these heartfelt moments. the same goes for the wonderful closer and title track 'Stuck In This Ocean', where the warm organ sound gives it a gospel feel as piano rains down over the track before it bursts into a strident and positive coda that finishes the record nicely.

You may notice that a lot of other bands have been mentioned in this review, and that's because Airship's music does audiably display a number of varied influences. However the group's subtle way of blending these influences makes sure the Airship sound is interesting and unique. Of course this album isn't absolutely perfect: one or two of the choruses don't quite match their sky high ambitions and there are a few moments where you wish they didn't sound so miserable. But when Airship get it right (which they often do) this misery makes for some beautifully heartfelt music. 7.5/10

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