Circa Waves have been in my periphery for a number of years. Both my mother and brother are avid fans. Diluted by distance or dampened by road noise, bits of Circa Waves have long played through doors or on car stereos in my vicinity. Mosaic-ed up like that, listened to in second-hand snippets, I’d gathered a rough feel for the band’s current musical identity from their latest singles: highly-polished production, concise and catchy.
By a band’s fifth studio album, as Never Going Under is for Circa Waves, you’d expect their output to be as tight and self-knowledgeable as ever, and the second that first track starts you’d know you’re right. The production is polished to the level of a precious gem – the bass especially is uber-toned, holding the weight of each song on its shoulders, foundationally strong. Never Going Under’s sound is full almost to the point of spilling over.
Perhaps turning that fullness dangerous is the pace of the first tracks. The album opens with an urgency that verges on rush-hour panic. It takes until the fourth to surpass a three-minute length, and even then it’s only just (3.05). The BPM is slightly frustrating; especially for the biggest fan, the expansion of a bridge or a rest from the insistently driving beat might be wanting. These tracks are radio-friendly, perhaps intentionally, but race away from the listener.
‘Northern Town’, the sixth on the tracklist, at last awards a breather, and a landscape-sweeping, proudly heartfelt one at that. Following is ‘Electric City’, which lyrically doesn’t do much besides rehash the “modern tech is bad and scary” notion, but again, musically, is Herculean in its strength and execution. Closing the album, ‘Living In The Grey’, is the zenith, a stingingly honest confessional, draped in grand synth and punctuated by booming drum-strikes.
Never Going Under confirmed what I had suspected from those peripheral snippets; Circa Waves are as strong in themselves as ever.
Never Going Under is available on limited edition vinyl* and all streaming services.