Debut album ‘Gnome’ from Galway band Strange Boats is a mix of power-pop and punk lite. The album takes its name from a Samuel Beckett poem (read by Saw Doctor Leo Moran on a hidden track). The ten songs on offer feature three that previously appeared on the EP ‘Nice to Be Alone’ released earlier this year. The foursome are childhood friends and formed as a band in 2012.
The best track on the album is Teenage Love Convention. It’s a catchy simple rock song, which is something of a feature of the band. When it works, as it does here, it is very effective but when it doesn’t it leads to a dull and disengaging listening experience. This song is a tale of teenage love and deals with the initial nerves and inexperience that are a part of those years. The lyrics are hardly mature “ever felt like you had sick in your mouth/do your best to swallow it/do your best to spit it out” but despite this it is a very catchy, very gentle song and one that stands out.
A prime example of the lacklustre sound is album closer Sweet Onion, an acoustic offering that doesn’t really go anywhere. The band is given a push here with the backing of a violin but this does little to add to proceedings. The vocal feels oddly raw and perhaps needs a little support, and although one has to admire them for mixing it up and giving it a go, ultimately the track just doesn’t work.
Part of the problem lies in the brevity of the songs. The album is under thirty-eight minutes with the opening track Sugar Delph under two minutes. The song features a catchy riff that could be a real eye-catching start to ‘Gnome’ but it’s over before it has a chance to really get going. This leads to a lack of expression and curbs any chance of the album being a satisfying listening experience. The music being played is also quite simplistic with very little alterations in the dynamic of the songs. The sound is nothing new, it’s something we’ve heard from a million British bands over the past decade (think Kaiser Chiefs, Courteeners, that sort of thing).
This album is a summer sound for the winter that doesn’t live up to repeat listening. The charm that may be found on first listen does not hold up on follow-up visits and while there is promise to be found in some of the melodies on offer the overall simplistic sound needs a little more to really engage and be enjoyable.