Tall Ships Everything Touching Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

The boffin-rocking trio’s debut displays dizzying craftsmanship.

Ben Hewitt 2012

Naysayers would often have you believe that rock‘n’roll is no thinking man’s game: that ginormous riffs and titanium-plated choruses belong to those who rely solely on their guts rather than their craniums.

But those in the know are aware you don’t have to dim your brain’s switches to enjoy air-punching jubilation. Brighton-via-Cornwall troupe Tall Ships boast math-rock melodies seemingly hatched in shady laboratories and arrangements so complex that scientists could spend days puzzling over them. Yet the dizzying craftsmanship evident on this debut LP is never an obstacle.

Gallop, for example, is a handclap-laden wallop of shimmering post-rock as frontman Ric Phethean bemoans the aimlessness of ageing. Rather than maudlin moaning, though, he opts for rabble-rousing euphoria as he happily bellows: “You’re constantly behind, thinking there must be something more.”

Ode to Ancestors, meanwhile, is perhaps the ultimate spod’s love song, in which tired romantic clichés are cast aside in favour of bonkers scientific missives. Its twinkling score explodes into a bitty, buzzy rush of noise and Phethean seductively coos: “You are a triumph of natural selection, every mutation leading to your perfection.”

Your average Casanova wouldn’t dream of scouring Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species when going a-wooing, but that Tall Ships can turn biological theory into heartfelt sentiment is testament to their off-kilter majesty.

Elsewhere, opener T=0 is a riot of raggedy hi-hats and skew-whiff guitars reminiscent of Battles running on super-charged petroleum, while Phosphorescence is wonderfully herky-jerky fare which celebrates the flash-gun brightness of giddy lust. But the real boon to Everything Touching is its sheer variety, the way Tall Ships can navigate endless sea changes with frightful ease

Witness the difference between the dreamy sweetness of Oscar and the anthemic, brass-utilising charge of Books. And then there’s epic swansong Murmurations, which builds from delicate, fractured guitars into an almighty climax of frenzy of hammering drums, swirling synths and cloud-dispensing choral chanting.

And even if Everything Touching occasionally indulges in the odd excessive spot of off-piste meandering, it’s a minor quibble: when the likes of Tall Ships come along, it’s enough to just take a step back and marvel at the brainpower.

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