written by Chris Familton
Some bands arrive in a blaze of glory and media attention, still young and in their formative stage but with sparks flying and a need to get that initial brace of songs recorded and released. Others take their time to nurture the songs, tease them out and live within them until they feel and sound just right and have in a sense earned the right to be committed to tape or hard drive. Sydney’s Deep Sea Arcade have chosen the latter route with songs both old and new going through design and edit, recording and mixing stages over a couple of years. The end result is Outlands, a record brimming with glorious ideas, attention demanding melodies and hits and the occasional miss delivered above all with self belief and an assured musical vision.
The most immediate response that Outlands elicits is that the band are still working through their influences and sifting out the dalliances of youth to get a handle on the type of music they want to play. Stylistically the songs run the gamut from 60s beat and psych rock through the UK indie sound of the 80s to 90s baggy and on to the new wave garage rock-isms of The Strokes. The gel that holds it all together is defined by a number of elements. The most obvious is the vocal style of singer Nic McKenzie with its helium tone casting him as a kind of Davey Jones/Tim Burgess hybrid. His lazy delivery belies a maddeningly good way with melody that leaves hooks in your head for days on end. Girls, Lonely In Your Arms and Don’t Be Sorry are pop gems of the highest order that deserve to grace the upper reaches of the commercial charts with McKenzie’s singing playing a key role in why the songs are so damn catchy.
The guitars are another unique and unifying aspect of Deep Sea Arcade’s sound ranging from reverb heavy surf guitar to Marr-esque textures and stone cold master riffs like the one that anchors Lonely In Your Arms. The absence (for the most part) of heaviness in terms of distortion in the guitars adds to their framework of indie guitar pop while also allowing subtleties of texture and mood to find their place amid the rhythm section. The final piece of the puzzle is the tightly connected drums and bass that don’t overplay their role while still contributing to the melodic richness of the band’s overall sound.
There are moments on Outlands where influences swim too close to the surface like on the Interpol referencing (musically and sonically) All The Kids. Another song that doesn’t convince is the closing track Airbulance which has a nice dreamy feel but doesn’t add anything particularly constructive to the album and could have been omitted with little detrimental effect on the overall resonance of the record. Minor grievances aside, Outlands stacks up as an impressive debut packed with immensely hummable and sonically rich songs that revel in love and melancholy in equal doses.