“This classicist Scouse outfit are a rare guitar breed: they transcend their influences.” We said that. Two years later, The Shipbuilders have pulled out of dock and are still on a journey to find something all of their own. They’re getting there. By Alan O’Hare.
An unsettling excitement exists when new music sounds similar to something but unfamiliar all at the same time. The Coral’s first music was full of that feeling when their first two EPs emerged around the turn of the century. Listening to The La’s, especially the b-sides, outtakes and radio sessions that have dripped out during the last three decades, can still bring unexpected surprises. While Michael Head continues to confound expectations with left-turns and laments dominating his last few releases. The point to this Scouse reminiscing? The Shipbuilders have joined that Liverpool lineage.
A bold claim for a band yet to release an album? Perhaps. The Shipbuilders don’t often sound like said contemporaries, either. But still… the fact remains their recorded output so far sounds like it’s been exhumed from under miles of Mersey mud.
New single, ‘Stranger’s Lament’, is the latest to join the canon and it’s a cracker: all rattle ‘n’ roll acoustic guitars, crashing drums and ‘A House Is Not A Motel’-esque electrifixation (listen below). Following a bold forty seconds of Tex-Mex scene-setting, a driving beat and bass line enter the picture, and singer Matthew Loughlin‘s big vowels and head-back harmony take you across the seas of Europe on a bed of accordion and reverb-drenched surf guitars. “The song is one of the displaced: refugee, traveller, worker… the specifics don’t matter,” say The Shipbuilders. “All that remains is a lament for the land left behind and the pretty girls who wait back there.”
This is a band who specialise in all that, top tunes such as ‘Feeling In My Pocket’, ‘Fault Line’ and ‘The Moon’ (the latter taken from 2016’s popular ‘Something In The Water’ EP) all move to meandering melodies and open-throated vocals. “I love music that’s weird, noisy and has melody at the heart of it,” singer Laughlin has told me. “Galaxie 500, Tom Waits, Love… their songs all have madness around, but underneath it all is a tune you can hum.”
And one hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts.
Pic courtesy Warren Millar Photography