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Circa Waves - What's It Like Over There? (Album Review)

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 Written by Graeme Marsh

Liverpool quartet Circa Waves’ third album, ‘What’s It Like Over There?’, finds them venturing into new territory, but is it a case of following their calling or, to use that classic phrase, selling out?

On their first two albums, most recently 2017’s ‘Different Creatures’, the band displayed a canny knack for producing top notch indie-rock songs, but frontman Kieran Shudall recently told M magazine that this needed to change. “We couldn’t keep making garage indie forever,” he declared, before adding: “We wanted to add more pop elements.”

Duly, several instruments we wouldn’t necessarily associate with straight up guitar bands have started to appear, like the grand piano that features prominently on a couple of tracks.

Times Won’t Change Me stomps along like a vintage Scissor Sisters romp, and Passport enforces that comparison by making Circa Waves sound like Jake Shears and company attempting to pen an ode to the Beatles.

The lyrics paint a clear picture, too—of break-ups. Pleas of “looking for a way to replace you” and “I’m falling apart” indicate who’s on the receiving end of the relationship elbow, but a cheesy synth line irritatingly undercuts any good work here.

Sorry I’m Yours deploys a wham-bam chorus as two elements of the album become clear. Firstly, Alan Moulder’s production is more polished than a newly presented trophy, and secondly the lines are becoming blurred between rock band and boy band as Circa Waves chase their radio dreams.

One of the LP’s singles, Me, Myself and Hollywood, is a drag built around an uninspiring guitar hook, where more heartache is revealed, and the oddly uptempo Be Somebody Good reiterates the theme, spitefully announcing: “I don’t wanna be yours anyway.”

The poppier side promised by Shudall appears on lead single Movies, meanwhile, and it’s very impressive. An angular guitar hook sits towards the back of the mix, as does a kicking bassline, perhaps giving away Circa Waves’ revised priorities, but it’s a clear highlight. As is the tremendously emotional love song The Way We Say Goodbye, where things get a little Maroon 5 as a U2 guitar line hides in the background.

They save the best until last, though, as the heavy closer Saviour reminds us of what they can accomplish when they go for it. In fact, it stands out so much from its peers that it feels as though Circa Waves have been allowed one single opportunity to let rip, so they’re going to make the most of it.

On the evidence of ‘What’s It Like Over There?’ it’s difficult to decide whether Circa Waves’ sound is evolving in the best direction. Things may be poppier, perhaps resulting in more widespread appeal, but are they also losing the core of what made them so interesting in the first place? Quite possibly.

Circa Waves Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon April 15 2019 - OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Tue April 16 2019 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Thu April 18 2019 - GLASGOW Barrowland
Fri April 19 2019 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Sat April 20 2019 - SHEFFIELD Sheffield University
Tue April 23 2019 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Thu April 25 2019 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Fri April 26 2019 - LONDON Roundhouse
Sat April 27 2019 - NEWCASTLE University Student Union

Click here to compare & buy Circa Waves Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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