‘False Starts’ from On the Water – self-described ‘oddball folk collective’(September 15, 2013)
There’s a school of thought that regards anything avant garde as the ‘last refuge of inability’, that lonely place ‘where you end up when no one else understands’, or as the self-indulgent ‘excuse for doing your own thing at the expense of an audience’. Be that as it may, although this band could have avant garde levelled at them, they describe themselves as ‘an oddball folk collective’ and having listened to their album ‘False Starts’ I have to say I’m inclined to agree. Whether or not this is folk is open to question. It’s certainly not easy listening. It’s so far over the edge it demands work – and I’m not certain many will be prepared to put in the effort required to decipher what the band is on about.
I’m sure that everyone in the ‘collective’ is having a good time – as evidenced by the laughter and banter that peppers between-track outtakes. However, aside from any slightly voyeuristic titillation of listening to what appears to be a bunch of mates jamming and making most of it up as they go along, for me this lacked attraction. The opener ‘Sealegs’ and following ‘Tumor’ have tunes of sorts but the lyrics consist of incoherent mumblings and raucous shouting. A glimmer of hope flickered around ‘Eternal Husband (Wind Wizard)’ and ‘Dog Eat Dog’ as they opened but when the shouting resumed they too became hard work. As the album went on the songs became slightly less bizarre ‘Barnacles’ is edgy nu-folk in approach until those throat-wrenching vocals return, although with ‘Child’ there’s a certain relieving simplicity.
I listened to this album a number of times. That made no difference, no matter how hard I tried there was no engagement and believe me I tried. Naturally, I encourage everyone to make up their own mind. Perhaps I just didn’t get it or perhaps there’s nothing to get.
Reviewer: Charlie Elland