Without getting all psychogeographic about it, there is sea in the blood of Tall Ships. Having met at Falmouth University and then moved to Brighton and then, for at least one of them, Devon, they are decidedly coastal in their outlook.
Whilst there might be no rum, sodomy or the lash, there are plenty of neatly trimmed beards and fisherman’s jumpers. This is seafaring gentrification. But Tall Ships are no Fleet Foxes of the waves. They are a classic four-piece guitar band with some keyboards thrown in for emotive measure. Impressions is their second full length album following Everything Touching released way back in 2012. Their silence has not been one of choice but forced upon them by a series of circumstances. So it’s with a big ‘welcome back’ that this album is greeted.
Self-recorded on the edge of Dartmoor at keyboardist Jamie Field’s house, this album has a real feel of survival and self-sufficiency, key themes of the songs. It also sounds utterly professional. It’s difficult to see how corporate intervention could have made it any better.
Impressions starts with ‘The Road Not Taken’ and you know you are in for a poetic journey. It’s a haunting introduction, really. Like the poem, the song addresses the difficulty of choices, regrets. Of course, ‘Nothing stays the same’ and this is a ‘Beautiful morning in another passing day.’ Other tracks also deal with the essential loneliness of existence such as ‘Will To Life’ and ‘Sea of Blood’. Our only comfort is to be drawn from family and friends. ‘Will To Life’ contains the line, ‘I’ve got a chest that burns a fearless red every time you are near.’ Sheer poetry.
‘Day to Day’ and ‘Meditations On Loss’ document the first-hand experience of ill-health and death. As the title does not suggest, ‘Meditations On Loss’ is neither calming nor yogic. It is fearful and frustrated; the drums crash against the rocks. As in the video, we are running and running and never keeping up. ‘Day By Day’ sounds like a winner from the off. It is the album’s six minute finale. ‘Place your hand in mine’ because this is it. There isn’t anything else, is there?
Quite the most beautiful track, however, is ‘Home’. At nearly seven minutes long, the track is bookended with simple drumbeats and vocals. The centre of the song blazes with a ferocious radiance and there is about the nearest thing you are going to get to a guitar solo. The tempo of the song increases like a racing heartbeat. Throughout, the optimistic refrain of the piano yearns and tugs. The tide ebbs and flows.
Feel very relieved that this band didn’t give it all up.
Impressions will be released on 31st March 2017 through FatCat Records.