Circa Waves ‘Young Chasers’ – Review

2 Apr

There’s a website called that lists the songs played in the first season of The Inbetweeners. Alongside now classics by Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines and The Strokes are less well-remembered (but at the time equally popular) hits by The Kooks, The Maccabees, The Automatic, The Wombats, The Fratellis, and The Guillemots. Their music was often as predictable as their names (The *insert noun*) but more often than not their songs were chirpy, energetic and endlessly replayable. Tellingly, these bands were incredibly popular.

In 2015 guitar pop is under-represented in the singles charts, but ten years ago these bands were routinely scoring top ten singles, number one albums and soundtracking the Nation’s favourite tv show. It’s easy to be snarky and unkind to these bands (most critics still are) but in an age when just about every genre has been re-evaluated and reclaimed by musical apologists, it seems that, unfairly, this type of very British, very White and very middle class indie-pop is the only genre not being given a second chance. Even Slipknot’s new single has been playlisted by Radio 1, yet Brandon Flowers new one hasn’t. It’s a perverse form of snobbery that seems to exist as an apology for years of indie Rockism that pervaded culture in the mid to late 00’s.

You could look at it another way. We just got sick of all those bands and that sound and style overstayed its welcome. Second and third albums by those bands were almost universally awful and the later crop of bland New Yorkshire bands were enough to make even the hardened indie-pop fan head to “Pigeon Detectives free” retreats. But it was great to grow up at a time where you could see a band at a pub venue one month and realistically expect to see them in the charts the next.

This year has seen a very slight revival in the form of Peace, Catfish and the Bottlemen and now Circa Waves, who have been releasing moderately successful singles for the best part of eighteen months. Circa Waves are more straight cut and energetic than Peace, and more lively and tuneful than the drab and boring Catfish and the Bottlemen, but they all share a similar nostalgia for ten years ago. Their sound has so much in common with their mid-00s forbearers that it’s impossible for me to hear the sunny ‘T-Shirt Weather’ and not start thinking about for the summers of my own youth. Nostalgia is certainly the trump card in Circa Waves deck and I’m betting it’s the reason they’re becoming so popular. ‘T-Shirt Weather’ is about remembering; remembering being young, carefree, warm and happy.

Over thirteen short and spikey songs, Circa Waves recall many of the bands mentioned above without sounding too much like any of them. For example, I can’t remember any of those bands sounding quite so straight and narrow as Circa Waves. By that I mean they sprint to the finish line, eyes firmly forwards, no time for a ballad, guitar solo, harmonies or any rhythm that could trip a song up. There is almost no variety on ‘Young Chasers’ and absolutely no experimentation. They reference Ride and Pavement in interviews but you won’t hear a trace of those influences here. The View or The Wombats sound positively avant-garde in comparison.

But there is something charming and old-fashioned about that. In the age of Spotify and YouTube, bands are expected to show off their diverse range of influences. But why should they? If Circa Waves prefer Indie to r&b why should they shoe in Destiny’s Child backing vocals just because it’s in vogue? The band play to their strengths and they make music that sounds like the music they love, that much is clear.

‘Young Chasers’ is what it is. It doesn’t push boundaries, it isn’t political, it isn’t deep and it won’t start a nu-rock revolution. It’s ‘merely’ an incredibly fun and enjoyable collection of indie-pop gems that never, not once, gets boring despite being so genreic. The point is it’s generic of a genre that has been out of vogue for a long time, and therefore sounds, even to my ears, fresh and exciting. I personally can’t wait to hear ‘Get Away’ at an indie-disco or a crowd of teenagers singing along to ‘Fosils’ at Reading and Leeds so we can make pretend it’s 2006 all over again.



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