‘By The Ocean, By the Sea’ is something of a sea change for Dublin six-piece Buffalo Sunn.
Formerly better known as fuzzed-out sleaze rockers Sweet Jane, the band have brought along with the change in name an overhaul in musical direction – a sound soaked in reverb, warm guitar tones and sweet harmonies.
This, the band’s debut full-length, is a modern take on ’60s Californian summer pop vibes and ’90s alt-rock heart-on-sleeve anthemics.
Opening track I Wanna Be in Love sets the tone for the remainder of the album, with a synth-laden intro backed up with lightly delayed guitars that give way to frontman Daniel Paxton’s bright, direct vocal and a guitar solo that channels both Noel Gallagher and the oft-overlooked Mark Gardener of Ride fame.
The resulting sound is simple but powerful, and full of devil-may-care swagger.
I Wanna Be In Love is immediately followed by lead single By Your Side, a more up-tempo but somehow mellow affair. Both tracks display the hazy textures and blissful atmospherics, something of a signature of Buffalo Sunn if ‘By the Ocean, By the Sea’ is anything to go by.
Buffalo Sunn are keen to show off their abilities in managing differing tempos and dynamics. Album highlight Gimme Truth is a slow building piece with a truly riveting chorus, while On The Right Side and Witches are straight ahead rockers.
Let It Go serves as the album’s obligatory heart-wrenching ballad – a simple acoustic song fleshed out with prayer bell harmonics, ethereal synths, dramatic single-note piano parts and washed out guitar leads.
At times, over-production detracts from the power of the songs (it comes as no surprise that producer Pat McCarthy has previously worked with REM and U2). The aforementioned Witches is a particular victim, with the layers of strings taking away from the driving force of the guitars which end up buried in the mix. Meanwhile, Told You So comes across as an excessively melodramatic poor man’s A Design For Life.
In terms of songwriting and lyricism, the brothers Paxton and drummer Donagh O’Brien favour a simple, direct approach. What is lacking in virtuosity or complexity or lyrical depth is made up for in honesty.
It is clear that Buffalo Sunn play the music they like and that they want you to hear, as opposed to what they think you might like as a target audience. Accessible and warm, ‘By The Ocean, By The Sea’ is the first step in a what will surely be a bright career for Buffalo Sunn.