The Wave Pictures – [Album]

Friday, 26 March 2010

It's incredible how, in just a few notes, an album take take a listener to a completely different place. It doesn't always happen – no matter how earnestly a band might try – but a few can do it. The Wave Pictures can do it effortlessly; without question. Formed in Wyneswold, England in 1998, The Wave Pictures (made up of singer/guitarist David Tattersall with bassist Franic Rozycki and drummer Jonny Helm) had been working hard on the local club circuit through the UK for years before up-and-coming buzz label Moshi Moshi discovered the band in 2007 and started giving them some support but, now that they have, the band has been drawing an increased amount of attention and is now trying to break on a greater scale. Combining the band's two most recent albums (Instant Coffee Baby and If You Leave It Alone) into one handy set, The Wave Pictures are now set to try and topple the North American market.

From the opening build into lean and stringy guitars and bass on “Leave The Scene Behind,” The Wave Pictures' spell is immediately cast; listeners are surrounded by dim and dingy club confines (like CBGBs or the 100 Club maybe) at the dawn of the punk movement – before the fuze was lit and before 'punk' was homogenized into four chords and a spiky haircut. Images of Talking Heads and X-Ray Spex get built as Tattersall apes the snotty attitude and comic vocal tremolo that was de rigeur (bit so damned catchy to the right sets of ears) back then, and any distortion attached to the guitars is virtually absent (unless it's caused by volume) as it was back in the day too. The spell gets even deeper when someone (Stanley Brinks maybe – he played on If You Leave It Alone) belts out a very Laura Logic-esque saxophone solo on “I Love You Like A Madman” and locks listeners in; they put in that first penny, but now they're in for the whole pound.

The going gets slightly campier but no less raucous as the band both revels in and thumbs its nose at most everything they see including the trappings of domestic hell (the title track), self-loathing (“Avocado Baby”), warm beer and cold women (the image of some girl spilling her guts on the curb combined with a “la la la” refrain on “Friday Night In Loughborough” is priceless) and poor personal hygiene (“Red Wine Teeth”) before indulging in some Decemberists-ish melodrama on “Strange Fruit For David,” but each time it comes off as another trick to catch an already rapturously engaged audience. In each case, the band plays its' image as both self-loathing and self-indulgent brats to its absolute limit and never once flinches in its delivery; even when they could easily beef it up (check the possibilities abounding in “I Remembered”), they instinctively know that changing the formula would erradicate the dominating theme so simply play it as-is, for better or worse. That steadfast adherence to form is respectable but the real win is just accessibly the album is structured; on Instant Coffee Baby, The Wave Pictures take the simplest, most common ingredients and turn them into something great, every time.

Just a month after the original release of Instant Coffee Baby, The Wave Pictures re-entered the studio to begin recording the follow-up that would become If You Leave It Alone – the second disc in this set – and the difference in the result is staggering.  The easiest way to relate the difference between Instant Coffee Baby and If You Leave It Alone is that there's a total shift in perspective; like the difference that exists between Picaresque and The Crane Wife by the Mountain Goats. If You Leave It Alone is far less raucous and far more romantic than its predecessor and represents a more reserved, subdued and polished effort. Horns factor into general construct of the record which forces the band to clean up its act and reign in the stray sparks of chaos that characterized the standout tracks on Instant Coffee Baby, and while the lyrical content still follows the same vein (lines like “There's so much good silence/in the emptiest heads “ from the title track are more than worth the price of admission, and that's just one example – there are many more), the overall expression of the songs seems more self-assured, relaxed and melodic as a result. In songs like “My Kiss,” “I Thought Of you Again” and “Come On Daniel” too, Tattersall sings positively sweetly and the rhythm section supplied by Rozycki and Helm is tight, clean and reserved. None of these comparisons is designed as a slight against the band, they only get mention to try and explain the difference observed between the records.

With the albums packaged together as they are for North American release, new listeners on this side of the pond have the fortune of getting something the band's domestic audience in the UK did not: a base for comparison to observe the changes that have transpired. While these are The Wave Pictures' seventh and eighth individual releases to date, those enamoured with what they hear will be able to mine a back catalogue but Instant Coffee Baby / If You Leave It Alone will leave listeners wanting to see what comes next too; both sides of this set are great, it'd be interesting to see how they connect on future releases.



Instant Coffee Baby / If You Leave It Alone
(2CD) will be released on April 27, 2010. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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