Seachange - Lay Of The Land
If there's one word that could sum up Midlands based rockers Seachange, it's 'dark'. Possibly 'brooding' might just as validly be applied. Before you even get to the music, the artwork with the album is suitably sinister looking; a collection of dull, sometimes blurred and underexposed and quite alienating photographs decorate the little CD booklet and then you play the thing and are greeted by the first track, Anglokana which is a nasty little tale of rural suicide. At least, that's one interpretation. So not exactly big on laughs, this Seachange, then, and that's not a criticism at all.
The one thing that differentiates Seachange from a sea (ha!) of aspiring rock bands is their understanding of tonal opposition. Most of the songs on here feature heavily distorted guitar that's counter pointed by a solo violin and it's a pairing that works far better than you would expect. The thing that fails to differentiate them, however, is a tendency to fall back on traditional rock song structures that does them no favors at all. A song like News From Nowhere can be heard up and down the country any night of the week. It's a real letdown coming straight after the original and haunting opening song. Seachange can do much better than that and there are plenty of examples on here to prove that.
There's occasional dabbles with white noise, as The Nightwatch amply demonstrates as it destroys the carefully built up structure of the song with a fantastic rush of noise that builds up slowly until it overwhelms the entire song. It more than makes up for the somewhat weak first half of the song. It's a nice trick, and it's a shame a little more experimentation of this type has not been attempted. As you will discover, the album has more than it's fair share of tricks to force that second, then third and forth, listen.
If there's one area, which the band falls down, it's the vocals. Although Dan Eastop has a fine range and control there are times when it becomes almost superfluous to the songs. Listen to SF, which is a great little explosive stomp-along riff-a-rama which the vocals seem forced and out of place for the most part. This song, however, contains a wonderful screaming section, which is carried of with great aplomb. This is followed by Forty Nights which is a brutal noise spectacular in which the vocals are buried and distorted in the mix. Again, this sounds great and more experimentation would have lifted this album into the something special category. It seems Eastop suffers when confined to a song with a standard structure. The opening track, Anglokana has a sort of folksy, mystical feel to it that twists and lilts and the reason for that is entirely due to Eastop’s delivery. He carries the song entirely. More experimentation, then, please.
Seachange have delivered an album of mixed blessings. On one hand, it's loaded with hooks and little sonic tricks that are as simple as they are effective but often they sink into the 'merely average' category, which is a shame, as there are some excellent songs and ideas on here. The music is never less than excellent, however, and, if given time to experiment with vocal techniques and song structures, they might produce something very special indeed. They just need to reject the safe approach and go with their gut instinct, which provides this album with most of its high points. It does grow on you, though, and Seachange are way ahead of most of their competition.