In a previous life I used to work for a major record label. Every year there would be a company meeting. All the labels would present their new releases to us in a slick video presentation. Band names with press shots would come at us at hundred miles a minute. We would be shown either the new unreleased video or hear studio recordings with lavish press shots.
The music would vary but there was a similar vibe running through each. Searing guitars delivering hook after hook while the vocals soared above it all. Some of them were great, some never stood a chance.
After listening to ‘Ursa Major’, the debut album by Marsicans, I’m reminded of those meetings.
The album opens with ‘Juliet’, after a brief instrumental introduction. ‘Juliet’ erupts from the speakers. Everything is so loud and furious it’s almost off-putting. The band know this is their chance to make that grand rock opening gesture. And make it they do. Massive riffs, shouty choruses and big dumb solos are the order of the day. While there is dizzy glee to it, it also grates with equ
al measure. At times it’s hard to work out how much of this is genuine song writing or naïve posturing. Luckily by the time it finishes, and ‘Sleep Start’ kicks in, Marsicans feels like a different band. They appear to have got it all out of their system. Everything is a bit more measured. Not toned down, but they aren’t as giddy as they were on ‘Juliet’. ‘Someone Else’s Touch’ has pangs of Spiritualized to it.
It’s sombre and heartfelt. The guitars have a delicious mournful quality to them. The vocals drip with pathos and longing. Throughout you expect a huge choir to erupt, but this doesn’t happen. Maybe on the next one. What ‘Someone Else’s Touch’ demonstrates is that Marsicans are capable of writing tender ballads as well as banging sing-along-a-thons. ‘Should’ve Been There’ ends the album on a reflective note, which it benefits from. It allows some breathing room after 46 minutes of pummelling riffs and melodies.
The standout moments on the album are the introduction and the three interludes. Here the band slow things down, get a bit woozy shoegazey and poetic. The interludes also add some nice punctuation to the frenzied guitars. It would be interesting to see if Marsicans could develop these interludes into longform pieces or how they could be utilised live. The answer to this we may never know, but what is evident is the band understand the dynamics, and importance, of changing the pace to give more impact to their songs of love, loss, and redemption.
Whether Marsicans become label fodder or the next big thing remains to be seen. So far, they have delivered a strong debut album which should deserve another. Without the summer festival season, it’s hard to tell the impact ‘Ursa Major’ will have. The songs are catchy without being annoying, or inane, the lyrics feel heartfelt and the energy the band creates works well in a home listening scenario.
‘Ursa Major’ might not be the classic the band hoped for, but it does show a band who are more than a forgettable showreel at a company meeting.
Words: Nick Roseblade
- - -
- - -
Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.