For Fans Of
There’s an infamous ‘Monday Tape’ scene in High Fidelity (the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s excellent novel of the same name), where Barry — an obnoxious, elitist record store clerk played perfectly by Jack Black — attempts to cheer up his friend/boss Rob — a melancholic and witheringly sarcastic record store owner played by John Cusack — after a particularly nasty break-up. Barry does this by playing ‘Walking On Sunshine’ in the store at an obscene volume. After Rob turns off the tape (much to Barry’s chagrin), Barry tells Rob to go ahead and play his “sad bastard music”, to which Rob then ironically declares: “I don’t wanna hear old sad bastard music, Barry, I just want something I can ignore.”
In ‘Reminders Written On Maps’, one of the stand-out tracks on We Set Sail’s new album ‘Feel Nothing’, there’s a point where the above audio sample is dropped in at the crest of an immense crescendo, right before the song gallops forward into a flurry of churning guitars, vocal overlays, and pounding drums. On this record, the film samples serve to enhance and resonate the lyrical narratives, rather than distracting the listener from the powerful instrumentals on offer. These audio samples pull from moments of absurdist relationships in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the emotional guilt of Revolution Road, and one particular instance of fatalistic determinism in the Coen brother’s epic, No Country for Old Men.
It’s this type of media juxtaposition that perfectly encapsulates everything We Set Sail set out to achieve on their second full-length: a seamless union of mood, meaning and music.
The band’s post-rock meanderings and seven-minute track lengths are noticeably absent here, replaced by a more direct, focused effort in terms of song structures, with ‘Feel Nothing’ sporting some of We Set Sail’s strongest hooks to date. On their debut album, 2013’s ‘Rivals’, the Brisbane band established themselves as a loud, dynamic group with a penchant for shouted vocals, reverb-drenched guitar layers and an affinity for film samples. While these elements are still very much the central focus of their driving, alt-rock meets grunge meets emo sound, it’s so easy to see the progression and development of the group’s songwriting on ‘Feel Nothing’.
Opener ‘Animal, Mineral, Vegetable’ is loud and triumphant with punchy rhythms, spacious riffs and the catchy lyrical refrain of “You’re like a wave/Wash over me,”— which seems all but destined to become a live set staple. ‘Snails’ delivers on the promise of the band’s first, full-blown upbeat anthem, with gliding melodies and a soaring chorus courtesy of vocalist/guitarist Paul Voge (who’s now taken on a more central vocal role compared to the shared delivery showcased of their debut). When the heavier moments of ‘Feel Nothing’ arrive, like the epic build-up in ‘This Machine Destroys Everything!’ or the emotive outro on the brilliant ‘Pet Cemetery’, guitarists Andrew Martin and James Jackson deftly add to the band’s ‘wall of sound’ approach; contrasting thick, dense textures against sombre lyrical touch points. Bassist Hayden Robins brings some crunchy bottom-end to the wistful ‘Space Jam’, alongside drummer Benjamin Britenstein’s percussive bursts on ‘How Did It Go Last Night’ and the slow-burning ‘Understanding This Is Not A Car Crash’ (which we sincerely hope is a cheeky Thursday reference).
In the book version of High Fidelity, Nick Hornby’s protagonist reflects on how music can be a form of contradictory time-travel, saying: “Sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time.” In many ways, this accurately describes the mixture of yearning and optimism that We Set Sail manage to weave into their sonic tapestry. ‘Feel Nothing’ is a great album among a slew of terrific Australian releases this year, and one that pays homage to iconic Mid-West emo like Sunny Day Real Estate and Texas Is The Reason, whilst also confidently navigating the same space as influential modern acts like Brand New and Balance & Composure. Yes, sad bastard music it may be, but you’re guaranteed to feel something here.
1. Animal, Mineral, Vegetable
2. This Machine Destroys Everything!
4. Reminders Written On Maps
5. How Did it Go Last Night?
6. This Could Be the Tragedy We’ve Been Waiting For
7. Understanding This Is Not a Car Crash
8. Pet Cemetery
9. Space Jam
10. Molly [bonus]
‘Feel Nothing’ is available September 16th through We Set Sail’s Bandcamp page.