Tall Ships XOYO1

Tall Ships, Tellison- XOYO, London, 22/10/2012

There is nothing but chemistry here; but dreams do still come true?

Tall Ships XOYO
Photograph by Braden Fletcher.

Amid what was just another wet Monday night in Shoreditch, Tall Ships marked the biggest date of their album release tour with perhaps the biggest realisation of expectation, hype, delivery and ultimately audience reciprocation in their careers to date.

The debut full-length has been a long time coming, and in many ways it feels like the tying of loose ends more than the injection of new direction. Maybe the autumnal season we now find ourselves immersed in has too much influence over my perception, but as hearing songs like T=0 and Gallops takes me back to the band’s performances in festival tents in the warmth and flurry of early summer, they already feel a little bit retrospective for me in the cold of late October. Elsewhere on the album, long-time favourites such as ‘Books’ and ‘Ode to Ancestors’ are given the big(ger) budget studio do-over. It does seem like a lot is set straight and let free to the winds of the past in this record, which does of course inevitably lead us somewhere; forward. But more of that later.

Tall Ships’ special date at XOYO had the emphasis of occasion given to it by the appearance of Tellison, who perform the most rapturously exuberant support-set I’ve seen in a long time. I can’t help but anticipate seeing the boys struggle to do justice to the emotively stirring, wry-smile-placing potential of their music in a half-hour showcase to those who are not (necessarily) fans. I didn’t conduct a survey of others, and didn’t really look around me at all, but I definitely had a blast in that half-hour.

The set that Tall Ships go on to give us in this evening of triumph is a well-considered smorgasbord of old and new. The band start with T=0, a song that I maintain is, in regards to standards of musicianship and artistic expression, their most impressive song to date. It is a cohesive attempt at everything, pulled off with spectacular grace and power. There is still plenty of time left for the more steadily cathartic album tracks such as Oscar to make an appearance, ‘And I love you more than you know’, Ric sings as his eyes begin to appear slightly damper than normal. I’m not sure if the band would openly admit it themselves, but in these songs in particular a lot of the math-rock elements of their sound have now disintegrated amongst a series of more polished atmospheric progressions.  It’s always difficult for artists to re-capture the invigorated fearlessness of their adolescent starting points, and so it’s probably wise that Tall Ships make a deliberate departure from this, laying those days to rest on record without the compromising of retrospective attempts to re-kindle it. Whether this necessitated re-modelling older classics such as ‘Books’ and ‘Ode to Ancestors’ to fit the new mould is another argument altogether.

When I suggested an absence of newer direction in this record, I was of course wrong, this is the new direction, purposeful and resolute striving towards a more expansive plain of musical maturity. However it may take a little time for the dust to settle on this tour for that to really come to the fore. But for now they can consider themselves a fully established band, three adults with no excuses when it comes to what they do from now onwards; this is it.

On this of all evenings, it seems only right that they should conclude procedures with ‘Hit the Floor’. All talk of the future and past put aside for one moment, these were three young lads from Falmouth who stole a small space under the streets of our great capital city for what was a little over an hour tonight. And for just that small time, it was all theirs. ‘You don’t know how much this means to us.’ Clichéd as it may seem, surely that’s the kind of thing that you could never forget?

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