We Are The Ocean - Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow
An air of uncertainty hangs over the third album from the Brit alt-rockers. The clue is in the title, the evidence in its startling change of direction. Those who doubted they were ever all that suited to a genre they seemed too damn smart to inhabit in the first place (and just what the hell is 'post-hardcore', anyway?) will see their misgivings confirmed here. If We Are The Ocean's progression from debut to follow-up was built from not much more than the toning down of Dan Brown's scream and finding more space for both Liam Crombie's warm burr and his growing songcraft, Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow is considerably less coy. Brown has shocked fans by leaving and the four piece are slimmer, smarter and, on this evidence, seeking patronage beyond the pages of Kerrang! and the scene.
So, all change and Brown, the fireball frontman, steps back and now acts as full time manager for his former band. Sheesh! Do these young 'uns know nothing about rock 'n' roll? But let's hope it turns out to be a smart move. Because now WATO seem free to unburden themselves of genre expectations and go after the alternative vote. Crombie claims the album was largely complete before Brown left and needed only minor tweaks. With that in mind, his departure makes even more sense, for Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow is an oddly mixed bag - but one whose appeal could see it cross over into an indie rock catchment.
Crombie's confidence is clear. The opening 'Stanford Rivers', a twilight lament for just piano and voice, bookends this collection with the closing 'Chin Up, Son'. The latter, an acoustic strum that echoes early Oasis casts Crombie as wistful troubador and he plays the part well. 'Pass Me By' ditches the bluster in favour of cock-sure strut and spiralling melodies but it's their stock-in-trade that, for the moment at least, suits them best. 'Bleed' lets rip like classic Foo Fighters, all pounding drums and juggernaut riffs. 'Golden Gate' recalls previous high point 'The Waiting Room' - boasting the album's sweetest hook, it's a shoe-in for next single.
It doesn't all work. There's a slight slump mid-way (both 'Machine' and 'The Road' verge on the formulaic) and Crombie's lyrical candour is appealing but he could stretch himself beyond the late night introspection he favours for the most part here. 'Bleed', an unguarded attack on the politics of greed, buzzes with a vivid fury and while no-one's saying they should ape the flaccid fist punching of, say, The Blackout, a bit of smart polemic clearly suits them.
Overall, the positives (Crombie's vocals, its debunking of the template, exceptionally assured playing and inventive arrangements) outweigh any negatives. For a band in a state of flux, they sure got balls. Brave and adventurous, Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow confirms that there's still something special about We Are The Ocean. Here's to them one day making an album that removes any doubts as to just how good they are.