Anyone who heard Circa Waves’ 2015 debut album ‘Young Chasers’ probably wouldn’t expect them to return with an awful lot to say about the world’s big issues. It was perfectly enjoyable – a record of fizzing indie-pop about love and lust – but also a little lightweight. It wasn’t the kind of album you clutch tight when everything around you is going to s**t.
Second album ‘Different Creatures’ does as its title suggests, presenting a band who’ve grown exponentially in the last two years, both musically and lyrically. In interviews, frontman Kieran Shudall has spoken about wanting to make something with more meaning. There’s no denying that he’s achieved that goal here.
The topics the album puts under the microscope range from the more personal and relatable to global struggles. A recurring theme is drinking to excess – thundering opener ‘Wake Up’ is about trying to quell that thirst (while blasting away any notions of the band as flimsy indie boys). Final track ‘Old Friends’, meanwhile, finds Shudall despairing, “I can’t believe I’m still walking to the petrol station at five in the morning” – a sudden jolt of regret cutting through the track’s shuffling pace. Elsewhere, the swelling ‘Out On My Own’ deals with male depression and anxiety that Shudall observed in his friends, wrapping it up in a ‘Siamese Dream’-era Smashing Pumpkins epic. The anthemic indie-pop bounce of ‘Stuck’ masks the disenchantment of time wasted glued to “poisonous TV”, social media and life lived in a rut with the kind of bounding, uplifting chorus Circa Waves first caught so many ears with.
It’s the album’s title track that brings the biggest surprise, though, with the Liverpool band getting political. “And 20,000 souls are sold tonight / Making us their home”, sings Shudall, a line he’s said was a bewildered response to the Government capping the amount of Syrian refugees allowed into the UK. It’s both thoughtful and thought-provoking, and indicative of the musician’s new approach to songwriting. Heavier, harder and with a lot more clout about them, Circa Waves’ return is finally something you can believe in.