Church of the Open Sky
Artist: The Break
Time: 15 tracks / 44 mins
There’s no missing the attitude that rolls off this disc. Virtually the only words are three shouts of “Birdman!” so it’s left to Martin Rotsey’s and Jim McGinie’s guitars to do most of the talking and they do, with the reverb turned to twelve.
Take a closer look at the names of the band, album and songs and you will see that this is surf music, but put away thoughts of Brian Wilson’s fey tunes; the ‘60s artists they borrow from are Hank Marvin, but more often Joe Meek (“Winkipop”) and Duane Eddy. Once the mood is captured, the Break adds rolling thunder to the bottom end and a bag of tricks to the top.
They only repeat the power of the excellent first full track “Cylinder” on “Groyne,” which sounds like it is deliberately re-constructed from bits of “Peter Gunn,” but there are still plenty of growling and strutting pieces with their own worthwhile quirks. “Five Rocks” marries a “Mission Impossible” riff to a Spaghetti Western mood, using several time signatures on the way; “Phobos Grunt” plants some Pink Floyd “On the Run” VCS3 rumbles onto a mass of drums; and they throw everything into “Dump.”
At first glance, it is easy to see that the band plays hard, but a closer look shows that they work hard, too. Sometimes that means using Theremin, Stylophone and backwards guitars for sonic effect, but it is often musical understanding that makes these pieces far more robust than they could be. With past bands including Midnight Oil and Violent Femmes, the talent shown is no surprise.
Twice they break the macho pieces with mellower options: “Blasket Islands” is spacious and melodic, letting reverb do much of the work, and “Mystic” has something of an “Albatross” vibe, albeit bassier.
While they have plainly put everything into getting details right, stepping back reveals an element of sameness across the disc, which may have benefitted from losing a couple of later tracks.
When the fat lady sings, even the sound of her knicker elastic snapping doesn’t have as much twang as this lot. It may borrow, but it is still their own sound, and one well worth hearing.
Download: Cylinders, Groyne, Dump, Phobos Grunt, Blasket Islands.