[sic] Magazine

The Strange Death of Liberal England – Drown Your Heart Again

With a name such as The Strange Death of Liberal England you’d have every right to expect something eccentric, something quintessentially British from the Portsmouth outfit. They don’t disappoint either. In many ways they are a more cheery iLiKETRAiNS . Their music is joyful and optimistic, blending folk-driven indie rock with the choral stomp of post-orchestral. Appropriately, for a band coming from Britain’s naval heartland, there are plenty of maritime references. ‘Flagships’, ’ ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Drown…’ etc. ‘Rising Sea’ is probably the closest their ship veers towards straightforward indie, although ‘Like A Curtain Falling’ has a certain British Sea Power , anthemic quality. The rest has a kind of early Efterklang , pomp and ceremony , vibe.

This record is a triumph in the old sense of the word. I don’t mean victorious, (although it’s good) as such but rather the fanfare that heralds the victory. Even the line “I feel the water rising” , far from grim, is sung with a kind of euphoria. In truth there is probably too much crashing and whirling partying. Brass parps away, drums pound furiously and xylophones ping but I can’t help asking, ‘What are we actually celebrating here?’ ‘What’s the occasion?’ TSDOLE don’t care, they’re away. ‘Come On You Young Philosophers’ has to be an important track, a pivotal one. Must be with a title like that. Yet it comes and goes with exactly the same gala merriment as many of the tracks with preceded it. Oh for something miserable then and at least penultimate track ‘Yellow Flowers’ does the trick. The party atmosphere is extinguished, the parade halted, because ‘Yellow Flowers’ is a lament. Ironically it comes as a welcome relief.

Drown Your Heart Again feels like a lop-sided riposte to Arcade Fire’s Funeral. Working in total opposition to the Canadians, the Pompey buccaneers have frontloaded their album with in excelsis , joy akin to ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ or ‘Wake Up’ and, in a similar reverse, they end it with a couple of dirges. The epic ‘Dog barking at the Moon’ provides a stylish conclusion which trails away into a ‘Last Post’ –like, hidden track.

On reflection Drown Your Heart Again is more than decent. Why then do I feel lukewarm? Expectation may be a factor. (I thought so highly of the band’s debut mini album Forward March that I made it my album of 2007.) Maybe TSDOLE are unsure whether to be miserable or bawdy? Or maybe they just aimed too high on this record, trying to blend everything together into one rambling opus? Let’s go with the latter and put it down as a near miss. I think there’s more to come though. I think TSDOLE have enough in them to be one of the UK’s finest bands. Play up Pompey.