Deep Sea Arcade may have started at the grassroots- gigging around Sydney before graduating to interstate, overseas, infinity and beyond. They demoed their songs as a way of perfecting their debut album, Outlands, a pastiche of retro-goodness and free love that was some ten years in the making. Add to that the fact that they sound like they could have fallen out of some sixties dream, covered by the Union Jack and drenched in patchouli oil and incense and you’ve got the majority of Outlands covered as one tasty, consumable treat.
If ever there was an album that could’ve been called ambivalence or conflicting emotions, then it is this one. The listener is offered up 12 killer tracks that musically jingle-jangle with a joyous vibrancy, even though the lyrics are heavily conflicted and often deal with heavier themes like loneliness and isolation. It personally reminds me of The Cure’s “Lovesong” in that it can be rather heartfelt and emotional in feeling while the sounds often chug along and on any given day can appear dark or happy, depending on what mood you’re in or which way you look at it. So while Tame Impala were personally offering us a half full glass of wine as an answer to the sounds that preceded them, these guys offer sunshine and darkness in equal measure and I’ll let you decide for yourself whether the glass is half full or empty.
The title track opens with some outright broodiness and is a self-proclaimed Led Zeppelin-meets-Portishead-style song. Thankfully, the mood swells high on the following, “Seen No Right” with its hand-clapping goodness. “Girls” lives up to the album’s perplexing theme, as it started off not knowing whether it was Arthur or Martha. It all began with a backwards “Wild Thing”-type riff and transformed from being about male camaraderie to a celebration of the fairer sex.
There’s a call to arms on “Steam,” which seems to combine elements of both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, while “Together” comes via the ocean. It’s basically like waves of water glistening in the sun and serves as an excellent prelude to the record’s subsequent pinnacle because “Lonely In Your Arms” is a bona fide crowd favourite. It’s catchy as hell (think like Franz Ferdinand and The Drums at a love-in) as it chugs along with chiming, surf guitars with just the right amount of angst. It is so pretty and polished; you could probably listen to it from a beat-up, transistor radio and still find yourself dancing and humming along.
Elsewhere, there is some cinematic charm (“Ride”); a Zombies-like ditty (“If The Devil Won’t Take You”); and “Don’t Be Sorry” which boasts the kind of fairground fun last heard on The Beatles’ “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite”. It’s fair to say that Deep Sea Arcade know a thing or two about their influences. If they’d been The Church they’d have worn them on their paisley sleeves. But for the most part these guys do sixties psychedelia mixed with a twist of Brit-pop and other English goodness and do so with great ease. How else would you account for the ethereal guitar riffs – the main drivers to these songs – which can seem equally charming, fuzzy, mysterious and shiny. Then when you mix these with frontman, Nic Mckenzie’s laidback vocals and the catchy rhythms courtesy of the band’s solid rhythm section and you’ve got a recipe that is hard to fault.
Outlands is all peace, love and melodies, a dense love letter to classic English sounds with some reverb-laded guitar pop that while optimistic and shiny also contains subtle traces of melancholy. So you can tune in and tune out to Outlands, because either way you’re guaranteed an awesome romp and trip upstream or a ride downstream, with all the right emotional signposts checked along the way. It’s a journey that is found a blowin’ whichever way the wind goes. Groovy.
Originally published on 28 March 2012 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/outlands_deep_sea_arcade
Visit The Dwarf’s homepage at: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/