Imagine you’ve just sat down to watch a film and the first few people on screen have mullets, Jheri curls and Flock of Seagull style haircuts. The clothes are an assortment of high-shoulder pads and rolled-up suit jacket sleeves and lots of random colourful adornments. It may (or may not) take a while but eventually it will dawn on you that this movie is set in the 1980s. Well that’s what your first listen to Ships’ debut album will feel like.
The Dublin duo’s record so faithfully recreates the aural imprint of the decade’s finest synth-pop that only they will know for sure when these songs were recorded. This is no mean feat, as the countless retrophiles who have failed to achieve anything like this result will attest. Crisp, neon beats, phasing guitars and synths, ethereal vocals, all regularly utilised here to great effect are also the trapdoors through which many others fall – just look at the lamentable 1975, a cod-synth band reliant on rusty hooks and stolen ideas: or “all fur coat and no knickers” as my grandmother used to say. To create something of substance out of a few simple tropes is a sign of understanding your craft. But to infuse your influences into your work without leaving undigested fleshy bits floating around it truly is the work of masters.
Over its span of nine songs Precession delivers a gorgeous array of technique, not just in writing and performance, but in its high level of production. Treat yourself to an equally high-end set of earphones and you’ll hear for yourself what happens when inspiration meets talent. Some of these songs, ‘All Will Be’ and ‘Where We Are’ in particular, run the risk of losing depth due to the medium they are experienced through. This is in no way a criticism, quite the opposite in fact. The production flourishes are so beautifully executed that low-fi playing would feel like eating dinner out of a plastic bag; basically the same end result but hardly a comparable or rewarding experience.
So Precession, essentially, is a study in looking backwards in order to move forwards. There are a thousand little moments on this record that will seem familiar. All of them crammed into nine beautifully crafted songs. There are elements of everything from Whitney Houston to Boy Meets Girl and countless other influences, each of which is handled with aplomb and delicacy. It is an absolute treat for the senses.