The Sound of the Ladies - We Went To the Bottom of the Ocean
Owain Paciuszko 04/10/2010
Self-referencing lead track What we did with our lives is a slight, ruffled little number with muted electric guitar chugging along jazzily in the background of Martin Austwick's glum and wry vocal; 'I should have gone to Cambridge and been recruited as a spy.' It saunters off like a drunk wandering down a rain speckled street singing a little tune to himself, before the album title track takes up the reins; it's a wonky guitar ballad referencing 'erectile disfunction' and 'Thunderbird 4' like Neil Young reading from Beck's songbook. Austwick's modus operandi seems to be that he finds a tune, enjoys playing it for a bit, starts deconstructing it with asides and surreal humour, before letting the song tumble away. It's an interesting approach on the one hand, but it also has the flavour of someone giving up on themself at other times.
Department of Homeland Security breaks the mold though, beginning as a lamentful ballad before transforming into Jarvis Cocker doing supper club jazz. It still lumbers to a finale, which is apt considering the lyric; 'Got drunk, fell off an oil rig.' But, to me, Austwick seems to - on occasion - be belittling his own talent, casting it aside with a joke. Up! Went my dreams seems like a more serious affair, even if it does sound like Jeff Buckley goes ukelele, it's a jaunty and bubbly tune having a rich and quirky arrangment.
Meanwhile Every Single One features Austwick dueting with his own falsetto to particularly wonderful effect, occasionally disappearing off onto folk verses like two songs sticky-taped together or occasionally blugeoned into one, like hammering a square peg into a round hole. Maudlin Bank Burns Down is almost, by stark contrast, too serious, it builds towards a bitter finale that turns into a country-tinged sway.
A looped drum beat begins
For all my gripes and negativity I do like Austwick's style, it just never seems to be harness into a song that I like from start to finish! There are bits and bobs here and there across the entirity of this record, and it's never a boring listen, but neither is it a satisfying album.