The Nottingham-based sextet Seachange has earned a reputation in the British music scene as incendiary; stateside, the group remains largely unknown. Aside from a few promising gigs — most notably at last month’s SXSW and a recent gig at NYC’s Mercury Lounge — Seachange is plugging its inspired debut album Lay of the Land the hard way — by word of mouth. And from my mouth to your ears: this is a stellar record.
At once stylized and substantial, brutal and idyllic, Lay of the Land is equal parts rock album and cultural manifesto, making some heavy promises along the way. Heavy issues like history (“AvsCo10”), civil discord (“Do It All Again”) and suicide (“Glitterball”) are not out of bounds, and are stewarded with a frenetic, confident hand.
Opener “Anglokona,” an epic two-part song about homicide, mucks it up in Nick Cave-like detritus, rolling together haunting string arrangements with frontman Dan Eastop’s macabre lyrics (“He snapped a thick branch from a tree / Took it to her pretty soft head / Spilled her blood onto the green”) before buzz-saw guitars eviscerate the grim piece in two. Likewise, the chilling “Glitterball,” a pulsating, rising anthem, looks at death with a cold eye, (“Whitened skin / Luminous black water / Hair caught on rocks like an anchor”) and finds the band’s helter-skelter vision calibrated and in fine form.
Other tracks, like “Superfuck,” a bullet straight out of the Hives’ arsenal, and “Do It All Again,” a mid-tempo Fugazi-inspired number, reveal the band’s musical influences, but they do little in terms of taking away from the their own power and urgency. In fact, “Do it All Again” is — for my money — the best song on the album. If not, “Glitterball,” is poised to take that honor, displaying a visceral and dramatic prowess absent in most of today’s rock.
This is not to say Lay of the Land is all good. It has its share of dogs: “Forty Nights,” “No Questions” and “Come On Sister” can’t keep up with the better tracks. Lyrically, Eastop tends to let his words get in the way of his good intentions. Still, desperate lines like, “Tradition and roots weigh in heavy / When the future is unsure” off “News for Nowhere” or “Mechanical views, optics / I’m thinking how the man invented perspectives” off “AvsCo10” work once washed under the band’s white-hot garage noise.