There’s something about Airship which sits uncomfortably, a lingering sense you are being fooled. It’s as if someone is waving a flag and screaming “pay attention to me” rather than allowing people to get on with their lives.
2011 has been a relatively poor year for straight-out rock music – with few releases of substance, bar the Joy Formidable’s Big Roar. So when one of ponderous potential comes along it’s foolish to not pay attention. With Airship’s ‘Kids’ receiving a 6 Music play listing it felt like a wind change; here was a power-drive rock song with the simplest of melodies akin to A Hundred Reasons with an early Molko-esque vocal. It was the rekindling of a romance with a school sweetheart long forgotten.
Second single ‘Algebra’ carried the affair on with vocalist Elliot Williams leading this Manchester four piece to secure domination of high-noon festival slots. It’s a mid-tempo stomp, with a teasing synthesiser which sounds a bit Fight Like Apes, and an arms in the air break down. It’s a bit cliché, but no more than a sub-wobble in dubstep or snare build up in Trance – it’s genre appropriate. Stuck in This Ocean was never going to leave much to the imagination; it was going to be epic rock, not ground breaking but energising.
Catching up with your childhood beau, or even sleeping with your ex, however, can obviously be a minefield of dangers, and Airship’s Stuck in This Ocean has exploded like the bunny boiler your buddies warned against: alluring and exciting, but soon you’re chained to a bed being fed through a straw. Stuck in This Ocean is the ‘Who’s Who’ of every band you’ve wanted to avoid. ‘Gold Watches’ in particular has a rhythm even U2 stopped using over 20 years ago and the 8 minute long ‘The Trial of Mr Riddle’ has a pomposity Chris Martin would shudder at. Indeed ‘Organ’ (yes, it predictably starts with a synthesised organ) combines both of these with a Coldplay one-note guitar riff intro and ending with the same intro U2 use on stage for ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’.
Their stadium pretentions are prevalent across each track with a formulaic structure of a mellow start leading to a crescendo peak. It’s a stadium sound of the 80’s, a bit gothy but enduringly too Simple Minds – and not in a Horrors way. A moment of respite comes with ‘Vampires’ – an electro tinge but even this is nothing more than a White Lies reject. In their defence, Airship toured with Biffy Clyro and Editors so they have been tutored in arena emotional rock. Editors’ Chris Urbanowicz even helped produce Stuck in This Ocean assisting Cherry Ghost producer Dan Austin, so Airship are brainwashed by a particular brand of coffee table angst from the outset. But this defence wears thin for a band with aspirations to be Snow Patrol.
Airship are a con. ‘Kids’ and ‘Algebra’ were great standalone singles but the cruel mediocrity of Stuck in this Ocean has audibly dragged their quality down. Great singles are meant to carry weaker songs on an album not be hampered by them. However, there’s an aim to Airship – an aim to reach the level of their mentors. And although Stuck in This Ocean isn’t good enough, a second softer album could easily put them on Radio 1’s mass appeal playlist instead.