Friday, June 5

First Wave Intact

Mosey through the belt of present-day Liverpool and you’ll happen on a lusty medley of Wombats-whetted powerpop, seemingly boundless droning infected by The Rascals, and an alarming number of Cavern Club karaokists who’re straight up convinced they channel the sweet spirit of John Lennon. And then there’s Wave Machines.
“One of the things I like about being from Liverpool is that we don’t sound like we are,” admits co-singer/guitarist/keys-minder Timothy Bruzon, sat to the right of me in the upstairs of some voguish city pub, proudly sporting his own band’s t-shirt. To the left is other co-singer/guitarist/keys-minder Carl Brown, dressed in the same Mr Benn-branded suit he models onstage, keeping to Wave Machines’ mystifying aura. Bassist/clarinettist James Walsh and drummer/sometime co-singer Vidar Norheim are off duty.
“It’s important for us not to sound like the traditional Liverpool band. Otherwise if we couldn’t, than we probably would,” states Tim. See, there’s very little amiss with Miles Kane’s fervent infatuation with 60s Merseybeat-plotters Gerry & the Pacemakers, but their township’s crying out for a shower like the planet hankers for Jack Bauer to rub out financial devastation. And Wave Machines’ moxie to fashion a debut album of synth-laden psych pop is utterly refreshing.
“If there is a scene we’re part of, it’s with the group of people that’ve worked on our gigs,” says Carl. “It’s a collective of illustrators, performers, musicians, poets, writers. We spend equally as much time speaking to visual artists as we do a band member. I feel really honoured to be apart of that creative aspect of Liverpool.”
This is the kind of band Wave Machines are. Heck, not even a band. More a collaboration. A unified team of visionary minds with something to say, of which said-album ‘Wave If You’re Really There’ is the result. If the thought of yet another Wii-possessed electro clique fills you with more venom than Alice Glass devoid of her morning blood-shot espresso, this is the record to save your soul. A rich farrago of Hot Chip-mannered throbs, superhuman euphoria and darn-meaty messages, bringing about one of the finest debut efforts this year. “We worked it and worked it and worked it as if it was the best new idea in the world, and we’re really excited about what it suggests. It’s the very first thing, so it’s not the ultimate reflection of Wave Machines. We’re already talking about taking it forward and doing the second one,” reveals Carl.
The album was recorded over the better part of the last twelve months inside what has become their lair of imagination, otherwise the loft of Liverpool’s St Brides Church. “We’re not born again Christians,” notes Tim. “It’s an unusual space to hang about in, but we used to rehearse above this mechanic place. Yet none of us were mechanics, it was just a good rehearsal space.”
They‘ve fleshed out the Albert Dock’s Tate Gallery, etched prior Chess Club-released vinyls with drawings of stricken animals, and all four members don masks of their own faces onstage. Sure it all seems about as la-di-da as Kanye West poring over the merits of Auto-Tune. But observing their live spectacle is like gawking at Alfred Hitchcock soar from his grave solely to rework Disney’s ‘Fantasia’. Only, you know, in a good way.
“The visual stuff is as important as the music. You can’t dedicate all your time to the music. We’re visual first, and auditory second. Eyes first, ears follow,” asserts Carl. And the masks? “It’s just us trying to look a bit weird. It’s a visual gag really, and we feel like it’s got enough about it to make it worth playing with,” says Tim, to which Carl adds, “If I was offstage watching this weird dark presence, I’d really enjoy that. It’s not all just bright, primary colours. Menacing is good.”
This DIY factor that peps their pop via art MO is reflected by their decision to evade the tripe of the industry and form their own record label. Bring forth Neapolitan Recordings. “We needed a vehicle to put our music out there,” tells Tim. “We needed to get the album out there as soon it was made, really. It’s quite tempting to jump at anything you get offered but this seemed like the best way for the record.”
I think ‘WIYRT’ broaches the good thoughts and the bad thoughts, all for the sake of a groove-charged happy ending. ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ on disc, essentially. Take ‘Punk Spirit’, a killer few minutes midway through the album where Tim intones, “And later when you left the room, I whispered ‘You could fucking die’. And everytime your back was turned, I put a finger in the air. And everytime you turn around, I hide it because I know it hurts”; alluding to society’s tendency to throw on a fake gown and keep schtum of its true feelings. Er, right? “It’s a remarkable thing about the English. The fact that we apologise when other people step on our toes is ridiculous,” Tim contends. “There’s a reason why it’s healthy to express what you really think… There is quite a lot of negativity in the lyrics, some quite dark stuff. But we have a fondness for poppy sensibility, so it tempers the dark lyrical angle. It’s a nice balance.”
Carl adds, “I’ve been working alongside those words for quite some time. But I’ve not thought, ‘Oh it’s all oppressive, dark and down’. Though there have been moments when I’ve wondered what the fuck going’s on inside Tim’s head.”
The disco-funk of ‘Keep The Lights On’ is as tuneful as Alice’s Wonderland. ‘I Joined A Union’ does a bang-up job of pumping life into the late Beta Band. Then there’s album-closer ‘Dead Houses’, which hauntingly casts back to Liverpool’s forsaken buildings and boulevards.
“Vidar wrote that one, it’s about arriving here from Norway. Everyone can identify with the visuals in the song. Yeah it’s about the boarded-up houses, but it can relate to anything. It’s about life that’s moved on elsewhere. The memory of a life, really. It’s got a real nice meditative mood to it too, and it’s nice having a voice on the album from a different part of the world,” tells Carl.
Okay, a cursory look at the clock opposite tells us it’s almost time to wrap up. Wave Machines, what does this all mean? Where is this all going? Is this album about to rescue popular culture as we know it? “This is where you do your Miss World speech now, Tim!” jokes Carl. Tim? “We’re certainly not on any mission to try and mean something. It’s quite egotistical actually, that’s what drives it. Not some desire to save popular culture. That would be a dreadfully misguided thing to try and do! But if by some happy coincidence there’s a small area where we can fit in, than that would be great.”
I've heard the album. It’ll be bigger than small.