Release Date: Feb 25, 2013
Record label: Chess Club
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
The Post War Years' sophomore release, 2013's Galapagos, is a moody, synth-heavy album centered around the brooding croon of lead vocalist Simon Critten. The band has always stirred up an arty, layered brew of a sound since its 2009 debut, The Greats and the Happenings. However, where that album seemed to be crafted out of paper and sticks, guitars and tin cans (as well as the occasional synth), on Galapagos the Post War Years sound like they've traded all their instruments in for vintage drum machines and analog synthesizers that buzz and groan with a laser-toned intensity.
Musically, the ’80s were a time of conflict. Synth bands began to challenge existing genres and often accomplished great successes with flash and little substance. Clothes were outlandish, hair often deserved its own postal address, and primary colours were heavily celebrated in all facets of art. Synth heavy bands in our current era operate quite a bit differently.
British band Post War Years are all over the map on their sophomore release, Galapagos. You’ll listen to this album and find glimmers of cool keyboard sounds of years recent and years yore, some of which may seem readily apparent—the poppy indie rock slow rhythms of first song “All Eyes” may have you reaching for Surfer Blood a little bit, not to mention the Genesis-like proggy break in the middle of the same song—and some that will have you struggling to come up with the soundalike on the tip of your tongue. Does “Glass House” sound a little OMD-ish? Does “Nova” sound a little like Bryan Ferry, at least vocally? Does “Be Someone” come across as a glitchy electronica version of Vampire Weekend? And “Volcano” sounds reasonably indie rock—is that Vampire Weekend again, or something else that you can’t quite fathom? For a band that seemingly quotes krautrock and the Warp Records catalogue as influences, in addition to everything else, it’s hard to peg what this group is actually trying to do by assimilating so many sounds into their, well, sound.
Post War Years were certainly in a festive mood on their 2009 debut album, The Greats and the Happenings. On it, the British quartet performed its best rendition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, filling the space with twitchy garage rock and blithe rhythms. The sounds were raw, unfettered and downright restive; the group, which seemed influenced by Nineties MTV, kept things cheerful for the duration of its recording.
The Galapagos islands are where Charles Darwin found evidence for his theory of evolution. It’s apt, because London (via Leamington Spa) four-piece Post War Years have undergone an evolution of their own for this second album, adding a far stronger dance music element to their synth-heavy, Foals-like pop – a shift most notable on the crashing New Order-isms of ‘The Bell’ and the LCD Soundsystem-like ‘Glass House’. But some things remain in their primordial state: the band are still unable to focus their pomp and bluster into anything resembling a memorable tune, or a song that makes you feel anything at all.
“What a wonderful collection of islands!” cried the naturalist as the HMS Beagle left the Galapagos. “And what marvellous creatures contained therein! Such a variety as you would have to search the length and breadth of Britain and even Europe to discover. I have filled a notebook and a half describing species that, as far as my knowledge permits me to state, are unique to this place.” “I miss my dog,” thought Captain Fitzroy, and turned the tiller towards Tahiti.
Although this is Post War Years’ second album, ‘Galapagos’ is the formal start of their career to come; it takes us on a voyage beyond what many other contemporary electronic outfits are capable of. With last year’s EP teasers, ‘The Bell’ and ‘Glass House’ making an opening appearance on this new release, these twelve-month old classics are beset by ‘All Eyes’ and ‘Be Someone’, providing us with a sinister upbeat quality. After its namesake, the intrigue fuelled by the archipelago made famous by Darwin resonates in the album, as there is an untouched and relatively pure sensation in the mid-way track ‘Growl’, soft vowels dogged by howling vocals: a subtle grandeur resides in the corners of this album.