Circa Waves ‘Different Creatures’ – Review

28 Mar

Circa Waves adhered so closely to the tropes of mid 00s indie rock on their debut that it’s no surprise they trip in to many of the same pitfalls as their heroes this time around. Second album syndrome stunted the careers of bands like The Kooks, The View and Pigeon Detectives to name just three. ‘Different Creatures’ may well do the same to Circa Waves. It’s superficially deeper and darker but has all the real depth of a puddle. They expand their musical interests but don’t cast the net wide enough to find anything truly interesting. In the process they neglect the very things that made them so likeable in the first place – bright hooks, catchy melodies and youthful optimism – qualities that when returned to remind you why Circa Waves once made us so excited.

‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ was a likely blueprint; an album that was successful for Arctic Monkeys by adding new colours to the palette and darkening the shades all ready there. Like the Arctics, you get the impression that Circa Waves have been listening to a lot of Queens of the Stone Age. Unfortunately they end up sounding like Stereophonics at their least melodic. The riffs on ‘Different Creatures’ are generally beefier than last time around but feel almost claustrophobically stodgy and overwhelming. The mix is packed and the sound is brutally compressed for modern listeners. To my (admittedly novice) ears, It’s actually one of the most poorly mastered albums I’ve heard in a long time.

If you’re willing to work past the aesthetic of the album, you’re left to ponder on the songs – it’s a mixed bag. ‘Wake Up’ is a prickly album opener, where somersaulting drum rolls and a tempo change for the chorus can’t disguise an utter lack of good ideas. It sets the sour mood that trickles down through many of the other songs. ‘Where do you get off’ the singer scolds on ‘Goodbye’. ‘Take, all you do is take’ he moans in an attempt to undo some of the empathy he earned on ‘Young Chasers’. Everything he says seems to be loaded with a deep seated resentment somewhat unbecoming of a man in the flush of young adulthood and on the brink of great success. ‘I’m starting to realise I’m out on my own’ he moans before deciding ‘I’ll fake a crooked smile’. The album is littered with these bitter barbs.

Circa Waves sprint through these moments with so much haphazard energy that it’s rather jolting with they finally have to slow it down. The album’s second side is generally calmer and a whole lot more enjoyable. ‘Crying Shame’ lives up to its title, as it starts so strongly with a gently strummed guitar and nostalgic narrative that recalls the warmer moments on their debut. It only takes 20 seconds though for it to gallop away from this sweet spot at the same breakneck speed as almost every other song on here. It’s still a strong guitar pop song though, and the only one here to elicit any kind of heartfelt emotion. ‘Love’s Run Out’ is nearly there; it’s the only true ballad on ‘Different Creatures’, and reminds me of The Libertines acoustic numbers. It’s sweet and romantic and not at all characteristic of the album as a whole.

‘Old Friends’ is a strangely chill end to such a manic album, but then it’s one song with a more generous, spacious mix. It’s lovely to be able to hear all the different elements – the laid back harmonies, the guitar interplay and a bass that really pops. ‘I want to get drunk with my old friends’ is the lovelorn plea at the heart of the song and it harks back to the central theme of their debut – nostalgia for the mid-00s. ‘Young Chasers’ highlighted sone of the overlooked strengths of the indie rock boom years of 2002-2007. On ‘Different Creatures’ CIrca Waves unwittingly remind everyone of that genre’s downfall, and that it’s not called ‘landfill indie for nothing.

5/10

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