The Saw Doctors may have put Tuam on the musical map, but foursome Strange Boats are just one of the emerging acts cutting their teeth on the Galway town’s circuit. Having just formed last year—their debut EP is a bit too obvious about it. ‘Nice to Be Alone’ is a three-track EP consisting of painfully alternative arrangements that are a passive-aggressive brand of endearing. It’s not an easy listen, but could be fun in a live environment.
An immediate burst of “Sometimes it’s nice to be alone, shut out the world, turn off your phone,” from opening title track is slightly unexpected, being an after-school special lyric under a punk vocal. “Glass of wine and a good book, the very best of Sam Cooke.” It reads like a nursery rhyme aimed at kids who play too much video games. Frightening kids into going outside for a while, an intimidating figure bellows over template guitar riffs and half-enthused vocals that are more like a football chant that a melodic tune.
The songs are a mixture of shouty and hedonistic vocals, with a punk overtone sticking to all the conventions.
Slow Burner carries this on, but with an old Irish feel, like it’s a cover version—but done exactly the same. It’s hard to tell how it differs from the track before until an aye aye aye aye hook grabs waning attention. The lack of any form of harmony leaves a harsh aftertaste on frontman Darragh O’Dea’s vocal, simply like roaring in your ear over a solo guitarist in a school talent show. It’s confusing. It’s not bad, it’s just distracting, it doesn’t mesh as well as it should in theory.
The heavy accented Teenage Love Convention is a charming interlude within this slower track. O’Dea just about manages to buoy above the usually saturating generic backing tracks of pure instrumental noise. But the lyrics are strained; he’s got a mouthful with nowhere to spit them out. This results in all attempts at poignancy coming across as rushed and insincere. There are no real stand out qualities here, it’s a trip down the hill since strong single, Boys Walk Faster Than Girls. With an early noughties feel—potential is there—with moments of glory hinted at. If they continue to power forward instead of drifting back on old formulas, the Strange Boats will sail on.