The amalgamation of too much time spent staring at the same view – resisting the urge to stagnate during a period of prolonged global paranoiaSouthend-based noise outfit BAIT have taken a deep dive into the pandemic void and emerged with their debut album, Sea Change. Released via Cool Thing Records, the album is a murky, rumbling cacophony of post punk, industrial-tinged noise that aims to make sense of a bizarre and jarring time.
Formed of Michael Webster, Jim Webster, Luke Branch and M R E (who also produced the record), BAIT’s creative spark was reignited by the events of 2020. Recorded and developed remotely - with Webster having to capture many of his vocals in his car to avoid “fucking off the neighbours” – Sea Change dissects the universal neuroses of the early days of the Covid-19 crisis. Whilst often colloquial in its expression, it manages to capture the sheer disbelief and fear that ricocheted through our cells on a daily basis, fueled by the band’s hyper-awareness of their local landscape. The grit of the sand on Southend seafront feels palpable, thanks to Webster’s sardonic spoken words on ominous opener “Sea Change”. It sets the scene, with his snarling Essex intonation observing “lakes half-filled from piss soaked jeans” over lurching electronics.
Whether they’re battling fight-or-flight instincts on “My Tribe”, grappling with being sucked into a screen-filled world on “TV Personality”, or biting back at the “silly things” that plagued our thoughts on “DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA”, BAIT do so with equal amounts of anxiety and adrenaline. Their wired blend of corrosive electronics, driving beats and manic riffs provide a visceral soundtrack to the mood fluctuations Webster seethes about, reassuring listeners that just like the tide, these unwanted feelings will also retreat in time. That tide comes creeping in most viscerally on the claustrophobic “The Weight Of The Water”, with its swirling, heavy riffs reflecting the crushing pressure of existence explored in the lyrics. “Somewhere To Be” flows in a similar vein, whilst on the eerie faux-calm of insomniac lament “No Sleeping For Light Sleepers” the distorted vocals and shadowy beats capture the band’s nervous energy in a different way.
Despite the manic context from which it was spawned, Sea Change isn’t all doom and gloom. It’s a cohesive, well-produced listen that’s peppered with darkly humorous (and true) lyrics – “There’s a man walking into town / and he’s carrying a plastic bag / with no trousers on” - distracting listeners from the record’s darker moments. “We’ve been forced to the edge / so we’ll take the leap” Webster observes on closing track “We Will Learn To Bark”, and Sea Change is that leap personified. It’s proof that the restrictions of the past two years haven’t totally crushed the DIY music spirit, or the force of its expression.