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"A Different Ship"

Here We Go Magic – A Different Ship
22 May 2012, 08:57 Written by Erik Thompson

After choosing to expand Here We Go Magic from what was initially a solo project on its debut into a sprawling quintet for their follow-up, Luke Temple wisely titled the band’s third album A Different Ship: for indeed the group has evolved enough in recent years to represent an entirely new vessel for his evocative songs. And, after capturing the fancy of Nigel Godrich (and Thom Yorke) with a stirring performance at Glastonbury in 2010, the accomplished producer signed on to man the dials for this new batch of tunes, giving the songs an added polish and scope that perfectly match Temple’s growing ambition and adventurous songwriting.

Although, that said, the record does actually do away with some of the musical adventurousness that made Here We Go Magic such a captivating band in the first place, the carefully measured and studied arrangements nevertheless imbue the material with a maturity and self-assurance that was lacking in their past efforts. After a somewhat clunky intro piece, Temple sings at the start of the gloriously hypnotic ‘Hard To Be Close’ that “It’s so hard sometimes to be close/It’s just a touch too much”. And he spends the rest of the record adrift on this craft of his own creation, drifting farther into the sea of his own imagination, while being careful to take the listener (and his own bandmates) along with him while still managing to keep a safe distance.

The entrancing guitars and metronomic drumming featured on ‘Hard To Be Close’ have Godrich’s fingerprints all over them, as does most of the record. But rather than change the band to suit his tastes, Godrich simply clarifies their artistic vision, giving the songs an increased depth and definition. ‘Make Up Your Mind’ could at first be confused with the free-form noodling of a jam band, but the jaunty guitars and sonic flourishes eventually become entrancing as the song coalesces splendidly.

After the touching ‘Alone But Moving’, things get electric on ‘I Believe In Action’, which suggests that listening is not merely a spectator sport, that we need to be inspired by what we hear and turn that connection into something meaningful in our own lives. Temple insistently repeats the mantra “Not moving does not mean you don’t move”, enough to convince the listener that they have wholly joined in this journey along with him, and we need to have faith in our destination, no matter where that lies. ‘Over The Ocean’ builds on that grand sense of exploration, and contains the spare restraint that so vividly colours Godrich’s recent work with Radiohead.

The mesmerising rhythms and gradually churning melody of ‘Made To Be Old’ is one of the record’s strongest moments, as the simmering pulse of the track proves to be irresistible, as does Temple’s caustic lyrics about frozen yogurt, yahoos who drink vintage, and wondering that “the Swedish know music, but do they know mine?” ’How Do I Know’ has a flowery pop appeal, with Temple’s vocals pushed hard to the front of the mix, while the band creates a captivating bouncy melody behind him. The percussive claps and “woo-hoo”s featured as the song fades out ends up a bit too Summer Of Love, especially compared to the modern feel of the rest of the record, but don’t detract too much from the upbeat number.

‘Miracle Of Mary’ has hints of the poignant ballads of Pearl Jam layered within its simple guitar-based melody, and is a nice set up for the dramatic close of the record, the expansive eight-minute title track. And while the subtle but affecting finishing number does eventually lose direction towards the end as it turns back in upon itself, the song still manages to wind the album down in an elegant manner. A Different Ship reflects a bold change in direction for Here We Go Magic, and shows how the band has grown from the bedroom musings of Luke Temple into something far more grand, which can take the group and their listeners anywhere they choose.

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