For a debut album, Between Buildings, Towards The Sea not only commits the cardinal sin of being both derivative and forgettable, but also sounds as if it could have been a coattail-riding hit seven years ago. There’s evidence of Autumn Owls as a melancholic Spoon or a more intimate iteration of Editors, and though it is clear that this Dublin trio are aiming for stately and elegiac, they often just sound musically disharmonious and lyrically self-obsessed.
Opener ‘Semaphores’ sets the tone rather emphatically on both counts. It unites a rough yet sparse indie template with repetitive, vague imagery of gliding birds and ruinous cities. The funeral-march pacing is only matched for monotony by Gary McFarlane’s laboured commitment to enunciation, and the initial run of songs are openly lack creativity in any way, shape or form. The injection of tempo on tracks such as ‘Spider’ and ‘The Arched Pines’ is very welcome and serves to highlight just how tedious the record is for long stretches.
The real crime are the lyrics, quickly falling into a bog of purposely hazy, cliched images on which the listener is supposed to project depth and meaning. Supposed to be poetic the words, in fact, say nothing of any substance. ‘Kiss The Wine’ is probably the only song on Between Buildings… that conveys McFarlane as the complex individual he clearly sees himself as; the cocktail of voyeurism, sordidness and regret stands out and works hard to leave an imprint.
There are promising moments, though. ‘The Great Atlantic Drift’ builds to a stirring climax and displays patience and maturity as yet unheard, while best distilling the band’s ample dark and sinister sides. ‘All The Lights In New York’ is uncharacteristically bright in tone, but ‘Borrowed Suit’ brings back memories of Interpol and Ziggy-era Bowie, which is never a bad thing. Those two closing tracks go half way to redeeming the album in an assuredly sisyphean effort, but naturally come up short. This isn’t a worthless album; there is enough here to suggest something greater than this largely mind-numbing coalition of deluded vanity and clumsy attempts at hero worship.