Guitar pop. It’s a hard market to crack into, there are so many excellent (and not so excellent) up and coming acts to sink your musical teeth into. Inevitably however, the cream rises to the top, and Deep Sea Arcade are indeed on the rise.
This is the debut album from the Australian indie/psych/pop five piece outfit. Hailing from Sydney, the band have built a healthy following through relentless touring and a couple of excellent singles receiving much airplay on national radio. Released on Ivy League Records the album was produced by the band themselves, or more specifically, bassist Nick Weaver and Vocalist Nic McKenzie.
Kicking off with the chiming title track, the album immediately presents you with a feeling of dreamy escapism. Bell like guitar tones and floating mellotron-like synth sounds wash over you, whetting your appetite for the rest of the record’s aural treats. The superb “Seen No Right” follows suit and is a jaunty, lush slice of pop purity which has deservedly gained much airplay.
This is a puzzling record to analyse. There are definitely aspects of ’60s psych pop acts like The Zombies, The Beach Boys and early Floyd, indeed Mckenzie employs the sort of soft, understated lysergic vocal delivery of a John Sebastian, Joe MacDonald or Syd Barrett. There are other facets to the sound though. Elements of Britpop and US indie are apparent with fans of Janes Addiction or the Dandy Warhols likely to find the inherent sound of this record appealing.
The first six tracks on the album are all fantastic, transcendentally ethereal, hook laden pop gems and really showcase the song writing talent of the group. The funny thing is, the music sort of plateaus and drops off after about the halfway mark of the disc. Some of the songs in the latter half are slightly uninspiring and a little plain, however none of them are unpleasant, and the general airy feel is maintained throughout.
This reinforces a point I have made many times. Bands should utilize the E.P. format a lot more than they do. A thinning out of weaker tracks on certain albums would make for absolutely killer E.P.s and a much more cohesive and enjoyable listen. I know Deep Sea Arcade have released one previously (2009’s Don’t Be Sorry) and I suppose that to make another would feel like a backwards step for the band so I fully understand the desire to create a full length album, and for the most part, this one is very, very good.
The instrumental performances are not the stuff of virtuosos but in the stylistic context of this work, any show-offy heroics would be totally out of place and would ruin the atmosphere completely. Simon Relf and Tim Chamberlain’s guitar work is probably the most noteworthy and they coax chiming and shimmering sounds from their instruments which are offset nicely by some surprisingly angular and energetic riffing.
Weaver and Mckenzie have done an excellent job producing the album themselves and the dreamy atmosphere present is due in part to this, and in part to the lovely arrangements. Reverbs of differing types are utilized very tastefully and creatively throughout proceedings, without ever sounding overly saturated or washed out.
Standout tracks? The first six. “Outlands”, “Seen No Right”, “Girls”, Granite City”, “Steam” and “Together”. I won’t further wax lyrical over said tracks, suffice to say they are all great pop tunes.
Given a trimming, this album could have been brilliant. As it stands, it is still very good and repeated listens have only caused it to grow on me. Lush, celestial pop goodness. The first six tracks alone are easily worth the purchase price of this album and despite it becoming slightly jaded in the second half, I can recommend it highly.