A decent debut, but not up the standards of its makers’ Mancunian peers.
Chris White 2011-08-30
Maybe it’s the weather, but whatever the reason there’s no escaping the fact that most guitar groups hailing from Manchester and its immediate vicinity sound, well, rather miserable. From the funereal post-punk of Joy Division and the bittersweet kitchen sink drama of The Smiths to the glum widescreen anthems of Elbow, bands from the city and its surrounds seem to effortlessly evoke a sense of rain-swept urban ennui that is rarely emulated elsewhere. Things briefly lightened up during the ‘Madchester’ era as Shaun Ryder and friends bounced gleefully around in a state of substance-fuelled abandon, but the likes of Airship prove the downbeat tradition is still as strong as ever.
Recording of the Macclesfield/Stockport four-piece’s debut album was overseen by Doves producer Dan Austin, and boy does it show. Listening to Stuck in This Ocean’s surfeit of slow-building atmospherics, chiming guitar riffs and soaring, melancholy choruses, it’s almost as if the celebrated Wilmslow trio are back in the studio again except for one crucial factor – the quality of the songs.
From the ominous whooshes of sound and first driving chords of the opening Algebra to the anguished fade out of the title-track 50-something minutes later, Airship strive manfully to churn out Doves-like towering, life-affirming epics, but it all falls a little flat. Theoretically all the right musical ingredients are in place, and singer Elliott Williams has a serviceable if unremarkable voice, but as a songwriter he struggles. Time and again he employs the same quiet-loud formula before ending with a cacophony of effects pedals and furious drumming, while lyrics like "I’m living in a coma / Created by myself" could come straight from a sixth-former poetry competition. Most of all, there’s a fundamental lack of killer hooks, meaning that for all their earnest dynamics Airship are ultimately rather bland and forgettable.
Although there are occasional echoes of art-rock bands like Arcade Fire (on Spirit Party) and Wild Beasts (The Trial of Mr Riddle), generally Stuck in This Ocean is stuck in a rut somewhere in quintessentially indie Greater Manchester. This isn’t a dreadful album by any means, but it offers precious little to make Airship stand out from the crowd.