|Spaceport Union - 'Flirting with the Queen' (Groove Riot)|
|Written by Michael Anthony|
|Monday, 15 July 2013 03:40|
When opening track ‘Simple Lack of Motivation’ kicks in, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in for an hour of alluring country-influenced melodic rock. Adam Basterfield’s smooth vocal adds warmth to a track that has single written all over it. The Wallflowers? Crosby, Stills and Nash? You know the territory.
But don’t be deceived, because not the even the introduction of Caroline Spence’s lead vocal on ‘The Writing’s on the Wall’ and the shift to funky, laid back Steeley Dan type rhythms prepare you for what’s to come.
Checking in at a cool 14 minutes and eight seconds, ‘Minnow’ is a modern prog classic in the making. Ethereal and dreamy, edgy and experimental, and “recorded live off the floor,” its emotional weight is carried by Spence’s haunting vocal. “Do not go gentle into that dark night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” says the Dylan Thomas quote in the album credits. ‘Minnow’ is not always gentle and does not always rage, but it does induce a sense of melancholy and quiet torment throughout. It’s beautifully sad. It’s how things might turn out if Wilson and Åkerfeldt in Storm Corrosion mode ever collaborated with Kate Bush. But there’s still room for the guitar dominated final section to pick up the pace and really drive the track home.
A switch of singer for ‘Yer Battery’s Dyin’’ but the vibe is maintained. More vocal torment, and more impressive lead guitar work from Basterfield against Mike Ross’s threatening bass and Taylor Charles’ rocky steady beat. Insistent and hypnotic, the band build up a head of steam as ‘Yer Battery ...’ plays out its Hawkwind-esque space-rocking end game in frayed and chaotic style.
Together ‘Minnow’ and ‘Yer Battery’s Dyin’’ seem to me to be the album’s creative heart, off which the rest of the tracks are dangled like low-hanging fruit. ‘Block’ is a return to calm and has a gentle folky feel. ‘You’ and ‘Fueled By Consequences’ are pleasant and accessible, catchy for sure, but lightweight in relative terms. ‘Veritas’ takes us back to the serious stuff – more haunting, ethereal vocals, with voice used as instrument, Karda Estra style.
‘For Years’ is warm and friendly, drawing matters to a close much in the way ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ closed out Dylan’s John Wesley Harding. It appears light and throwaway, but is in fact an essential counterpoint to its more weighty predecessor, bringing us full circle and restoring some balance.
The word ‘eclectic’ is overused, but is fully merited here, reflecting idiosyncratic instrument choice, and some quite astonishing and varied sounds and compositions. Rarely has an album surprised me so much as it has developed.
If you are intrigued by any of the foregoing, then ‘Flirting with the Queen’ is highly recommended (you know what I mean). It’s a fine, fine debut album from a talented and creative outfit.