March 31, 2012
Album Review: Deep Sea Arcade – Outlands

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When Sydney’s Deep Sea Arcade play live they are always able to present their ‘true self’ no matter the circumstance. It’s as if when the five of them bind together (and indeed they do become a jellified whole) they are carried out of the particular context and into an alternate realm where they can give their songs the care and attention that they deserve.

Their debut LP Outlands also exceeds the confinements and impositions of context. It’s not as though its without relatives in the current musical milieu, nor does their debt to classic pop music sound anachronistic, but Deep Sea Arcade tap into a special uncluttered frequency with organic ease. There is such immense talent in this band, which is optimally utilised to benefit the songs. All band members forgo superfluous personal indulgences to cater to the specific requirements of the songs.

Album opener, title track ‘Outlands’ is one of the darker timbred tracks on the album. Nick Weaver’s bass and Carlos Adura’s drumming forms an effortlessly propulsive groove, while Simon Relf and Tim Chamberlain’s reverberating guitars dabble with disonance and suggest something mysterious. Nick Mackenzie’s high pitched vocals wander around in this scenery with nonplussed clarity. The song gradually picks up in intensity, eventually reaching out of its covert cover with a circulating guitar solo and advancing bass line.
The album then proceeds with a series of pop songs that feel like they have been directly gleaned from pop music’s ideal form. ‘Seen No Right’, ‘Girls’, ‘Granite City’ & ‘Steam’ consecutively cascade out of the fertile Deep Sea hub, resembling the immediacy of The Animals and the hedonism of The Rolling Stones, as well as carrying placid complexity akin to contemporaries Deerhunterand The Shins.

Armed with two dexterous and inventive guitarists, Deep Sea Arcade are (in a certain sense) a guitar-pop band. However, the merits of the guitarists lie just as much in their ability to know when to refrain from playing. It’s very rare to hear them simultaneously vying to be the song’s central voice and their selective input adds emphasis to their moments of greater involvement. The dual melodic chiming on ‘All The Kids’ sounds like Interpol and deepens the sense of daily struggle imparted by the song. ‘Lonely In Your Arms’ has a surf-rock hook and as guitar twangs a sepia tinge infiltrates your consciousness.

Outlands’ showcases of classy pop are not formulaic or limited. ‘Together’ is a trip into psych-shoegaze territory. Mackenzie’s dreamy vocals are enhanced by the cloud hopping backdrop the band erects. ‘Ride’ similarly builds a soundscape that invites relaxation.

Early single ‘Don’t Be Sorry’ is just as engaging in the album sequence as it was upon release 2 years ago. The Zombies-esque shades of intrigue, rhythmic insistence and infectious, yet not all naff, melodic hooks are completely enchanting. It’s somewhat unbelievable that scientific measurement claims the song only lasts 2 minutes. This is another reminder that time does not exist inside of good pop music.

Outlands calls to mind self-sufficient and sustaining albums such as The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut, The Strokes’ Is This It, and Television’s Marquee Moon. These albums haven’t faltered as years have passed, seeming to pay no attention to the workings of time. Another trait Outlands shares with these albums is that every song on it could warrant inclusion on a greatest hits collection, without having an obvious ‘hit’. It’s atemporal; it resounds with allure and a sense of importance right now, and indeed that is all that should ever matter.

- Augustus Welby