After rocking the local Oxford scene with their nautically themed post rock instrumentals Listing Ships have set sail for more distant shores with their new EP The 100 Gun Ship. They've hoist the mainbrace and lowered the spinnaker (no I don't know what it means either but it sounds like the sort of things sailors might say) seeking fame and fortune far from their Oxford home.
The band's gimmick is that everything, from the band name, to the song titles to the graphics on their records is nautically connected. It's an odd, obtuse and unnecessary gimmick for a post rock band from land locked Oxford, and one that they may find difficult to maintain over a, hopefully, long musical career. Will they end up as the first band to split up because of nautical differences? Would Tortoise have become as big in the post rock world if they'd named all their songs after shell dwelling reptiles, I think not.
The title track '100 Gun Ship' kicks off proceedings with a heavyweight (naval?) battle between the bass and lead guitars. A battle so ferocious it'd leave Black Sabbath cowering in a corner with their fingers in their ears. 'Melusine Romance' is, thankfully, a little easier on the tympanic membrane as is 'Equus Ager' which starts slowly, almost gently, and then builds and builds until it erupts in your face like a cheap imported indoor firework. 'Then Venice Sank' is an insistent, noisy, highlight EP. It's heavy guitars are set to stun and the volume dial cranked up high.
The band leave the best track on the EP, the nine minute New Rose Hotel remix of 'Equus Ager', until the end. It's not so much a remix as a complete, and welcome, re-imagining. It's completely unrecognisable, a soothing, ambient contrast to the noisy, ear bashing original. It's also the closest the band come to evoking the spirit of the sea, the ebb and flow, the mystery in it's murky depths.
The 100 Gun Ship is technically very good. These guys sure can play their instruments and make an interesting noise, but I find it really difficult to enjoy a whole album of instrumentals. I can admire the jagged basslines, the guitars and drums that pound my brain until there's little left but a mess of unconnected tissue on the bedroom wall, but I just can't love them. Is there a gap in the market for nautically themed post rock instrumentals? If so then Listing Ships are the band to exploit that gap. I'm just not quite convinced it's what the world is desperately crying out for.