It seems peculiar, at first, that Fierce Panda – a label possessing an uncanny ability to earmark the sound of the zeitgeist in the form of limited-edition singles – should choose [a]Seafood[/a] to helm their virgin voyage into full-length albums.
Not only do [a]Seafood[/a] spurn the technological trappings of the 21st century in favour of a vestigial guitar squall from the early-1990s, but their sonic blueprint is derived from a clear love of the American underground rather than anything that has ever happened in Britain. ‘Surviving The Quiet’ is Sebadoh circa ‘Bakesale’, Pavement circa ‘Slanted And Enchanted’, Sonic Youth circa ‘Goo’. That it manages to sound so vital, barbed and lucid while bound by these influences, is a small, perfectly formed, miracle.
Seafood’s ability to fine-tune a collision of raw noise and probing melody into something emotionally evocative elevates them far beyond the level of sub-standard copyists. From the furious metal-riff-laden opener ‘Guntrip’ to the tentatively delicate ‘Led By Bison’ and vertiginous ‘FSC II/The Quiet’ ([a]Seafood[/a] also excel at obscure titles), these ten songs run the gamut from catharsis to neurosis to introspection and back again. Singer David Line’s plaintive voice navigates the snarled knots of lurching, stop-start guitar with an easy, humble grace, and drummer Caroline Banks’ vocal contribution on the winsome ‘Beware Design’ adds a note of welcome, sweet naiveti. [a]Seafood[/a], often, are nearly as good as the big daddies of alt-rock they revere. They’re just a few years too late.
Or are they? Considering that America is currently producing a bounty of underground talent for the first time since the heyday of grunge, perhaps [a]Seafood[/a] are onto something. Time has yet to tell. Signs are, however, that [a]Seafood[/a] may well use their mastery of all that is skewed and Malkmus-like to springboard into a confident, autonomously inventive future of their own. They’ve made a marked progression from last year’s ‘Messenger In The Camp’ mini-album, evident in the sophisticated sprawl of ‘Toggle’, the unexpected steel-pedal guitar slide of ‘Dear Leap The Ride’ and the effervescent, if jagged, pop sensibility surfacing in ‘This Is Not An Exit’. Seafood are young, smart and talented. Whether or not they use this potential to mould the past into bold new shapes for the future is up to them. ‘Surviving The Quiet’ is a fine place to start.