Well, this one’s been a long time in coming. I’ve spent the last six months willing myself to write something about this band, and the time finally feels right. Tall Ships now feel like an integral part of my being, like a kidney. Except, probably more important than a kidney, because you can always get rid of a kidney. The heart seems like too much of a cheesy metaphor. So let’s just say they are a crucial internal organ of some sort.
I first stumbled across ‘Plate Tectonics’ through a friend posting it on Twitter. I was instantly smitten. It seems fair to say that the ol’ time-signature switcharoo has been massively influential in the last five years or so in the indie/alt-rock landscape, with the like of Foals and Vampire Weekend creating a plethora of cheap knock-offs and wannabes. I had the displeasure of seeing a local band this year who just seemed to throw in a time-signature switch whenever they ran out of words or ideas on what to do next.
This is why this band are special. They have such a focused energy on making the switches fit in in the context of the track. It’s always there for a reason. Not only that,but to create layers of sound, guitar loops are often used. These loops and time signature switches are perfectly exemplified in ‘Plate Tectonics’. Initially, it’s a lyrically smart catchy-shindig of a track, before turning round halfway through, pulling up its socks and running in a completely different direction. In the second half, one fretful riff sets the pace before other layers of guitar riffs are spread over the top, creating some kind of deep-fill sandwich of noise. There’s always a desire to want to praise the bass and percussion as well, but it does what it was built for; it acts as the structure that allows the track as a whole to shine. It’s the delicious bread in our bizarre sandwich simile. People sometimes forget the bread, but without it, you are just licking sandwich filling from your hands.
So that’s one track. I could sit here for forever and a day and turn every one of their tracks into delicious food-based lexical terms. But I don’t want to spoil the fun of other people’s journeys, but I really do want you to dive in. Head first.
One of my favourite people in the world bought me a ticket to go see their live show when they were on tour with Los Campesinos a few months ago. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the date in the end as I was several hundred miles away, but she said something that resonated with me, and it’s something I want to
steal share. Tall Ships use vocals sparingly; they are intelligently aware of the fact that it’s just one part of music. Without being too disparaging of Los Campesinos, they almost overload the listener with lyrics. At times it works, but at times it leaves the listener feeling full and unable to absorb any more meaning. Tall Ships are able to say more with one sneaky verse of lyrics in a track; it has such a powerful impact. The white space of vocal silence acts as a framing device to magnify what is being said. It also allows the actual music they are making to stand out too. A track like ‘Vessels’ is a case in point. The track is so brilliantly constructed, I can never get tired of hearing it.
So, the wonderful person who did get to go to the show got me a signed white vinyl single of ‘T=0’, shown in the picture. This track is the first single from a forthcoming debut album from the band. According to the band’s Twitter, an announcement will be made next week regarding a release date and a UK tour. Catch them while you can.