'Moron Police' - 'A Boat on the Sea' (album)
To state the obvious, people are entitled to entertain themselves in pretty much any way that they choose. My Great Uncle Ivan (God rest his soul...) used to buy 3 flagons of 'Cripple Cock' Farmyard Scrumpy every Sunday morning, and settle down in the afternoon to watch 'Bullseye' and 'Little and Large' - and anyone attempting to interrupt his viewing would be subject to a barrage of unintelligible Devonian cursing. Now I realise that he wasn't exactly setting the entertainment threshold that high, but I can't deny that a few bottles of the old 'Cripple Cock' have been consumed myself in the last few weeks, because the new 'Moron Police' album is out, and 'A Boat on the Sea' is for me, prime-time prog anime pop rock entertainment of the highest order.
Well when I say 'is out', it was released at the end of August, but the general rule is that the more we like something, the longer it takes to write about it - although to be clear that's definitely not the reason we're yet to write about the 'Of Monsters and Men' album released a few months ago. Anyway I digress already, because we have written about the 2 'Moron Police' singles that proceeded the album, so hopefully regular readers will be aware that 'A Boat on the Sea' had been released. Bergen based (who'd have thought), they were known previously for their more metal orientated 2014 release 'Defenders of the Small Yard' and the 4 piece comprise Sondre Skollevoll on guitar and vocals, Thore Pettersen (drums), Christian Steen (bass) and none other than Lars Bjorkness on keyboard, and the whole thing was recorded and engineered by Sondre and Lars of the band - and they've done a great job at that too.
'A Boat on the Sea' opens with 'Hocus Pocus', and immediately those who remember the 2014 album will realise this is a band who have matured, with a refined almost elegant short piano driven song, which at just over 1 minutes just makes its point (''Awake the gods from slumber, let them see all the things we have become'') and allows it float into space. And then the real fun begins, 'The Phantom Below' is a riotous collection of rock anime, sax solos, complex rhythms and melodies, whilst I will love forever the animated keyboard flourish some 2 mins 14 in to the track. 'The Invisible King' has a traditional rock anthem at its heart, and would normally appeal to me less, but lyrically it throws up questions to consider, whilst the languid instrumental section that sits in the middle of the track is really effective before it develops with a blazing guitar solo. 'Beware the Blue Skies' builds on those questions further, this time analysing the Norwegian relationship with the USA - ''We'll give them guns and an agenda, one-way tickets on commercial planes'', and I love the change of pace at the end, which throws all the attention on to the words and to an almost quaint instrumental ending.
'The Dog Song' is definitely a song about a dog, whilst 'Captain Awkward' is an immediate favourite, leaving me dancing joyously to another outrageously catchy tune banged out of the Hammond organ and a huge guitar riff, followed by the most ridiculous rhythms somehow performed by vocals, guitars and drums, some progressive chord changes and out of nowhere a folk influenced tune accompanied by insane drumming - I defy anyone to listen without a smile on their face. 'The Undersea' somehow embraces fatality (''you sing songs and then we die''), but all through another huge rock anthem, and again just listen for the extraordinarily performed instrumental section, reminding us that wonderful musicianship lies at the heart of the album. But my personal favourite is 'Isn't it Easy', which wraps up the album both musically and lyrically, with staccato almost unintelligible rhythms starting the nonsense, before it opens up with guitar and a traditional vocal ballad setting out the theme - 'Same old War once again, you police the world but then watch it go to hell'. The incomprehensible middle section is simply marvellous before Sondre wraps up the whole thing: ''And so our story ends as it began, by waking Gods to see them fall, but most of all we found ourselves in hearts of stone. I'm going home''. And suddenly that energised musical theme that cropped up throughout the album is played softly and delicately on piano, and it's an utterly beautiful and poignant end.
My pet hate with music websites are those lazy enough to call out 'Album of the Year' in September, or even in the middle of January - so whilst you won't find me quite doing that, I'm pretty safe in suggesting that this is the prog anime pop rock Album of the Year. And whilst I expected this album to be entertaining, I didn't quite realise just how bigger punch it could pack both musically and lyrically, with 'Beware the Blue Skies' and 'Isn't It Easy' really hitting their mark in particular with their scything take out of the political system and the relationship between world conflicts and Capitalism. But most of all 'A Boat on the Sea' is simply great fun, an album to be simply enjoyed for its huge collection of melodies and outrageous musical performances, with more laugh our loud moments than 'Little & Large' and certainly giving no reason to drown your sorrows in industrial strength farmyard scrumpy. Just sit back and enjoy everything that it throws at you.
Nordic Music Review 9/10
Special mention must go to 'Dulk' for the incredible artwork. Visit him here.
Sadly they don't actually seem to be making 'Cripple Cock Scrumpy' anymore, which is a shame because I thought they were on to a winner with their marketing slogan ''Have your crutches handy, this be a toe curler.''