White Star Liners – The Rural Electrification (2008)
I first heard of, saw and met the White Star Liners at a gig in March 2011 at Brighton’s Komedia, supporting Squeeze’s Chris Difford and his occasional songwriting partner Boo Hewerdine. Their songwriting talent immediately leapt out at me and I can’t remember very many support acts I’ve been as knocked out by than this local foursome. Their songs were funny, catchy and memorable and the performances energetic and charming. The superb “Tyre Pressure Was The Least Of His Worries” stood out immediately as did the obviously Ray Davies-influenced “Keep Calm and Carry On”, both of which are present on this, their impressive début album. Self-recorded “in a living room” with “one mic and one computer” by just two of the band, Jim Duncan and James Harvey wear their classic songwriting influences on their sleeves, with this album reminiscent of the shimmering indie bands of the nineties who were influenced by the likes of The Beatles, The Kinks and the Electric Light Orchestra, such as Blur, Mull Historical Society, Supernaturals and Super Furry Animals.
Although this album is a “home recording”, this isn’t an amateurish lo-fi recording, far from it, it’s a full sounding, tastefully garnished, accomplished piece of work which makes the most of the limited resources they had. One of the album’s highlights, “Digging For Bombs”, had me at the brilliant first line, “I think I must be getting older/all the bands I love have split up, or even worse, reformed” (something I can certainly relate to) and also boasts a extremely catchy indie-rock chorus. There are moments of pure Britpop heaven on “The Rural Electrification”, but their present line-up, as a foursome, thankfully adds what seems to be a missing dimension and punch to their sound as there are moments on their first album that seem a little tame and ordinary (the slightly weak “Bugs and Flames”, for example), whereas their live show with their drummer and bassist proves that they are anything but.
Altogether, this is a very good début album indeed and their natural songwriting ability, although not yet fully realised on this release, is more than apparent. Jim and James’ ear for harmonies, chord progressions and dynamics, whilst combining them with some intelligent and amusing lyrics, means that this is a gratifying, satisfying listen and, overall, leaves you keen to hear more from the Brighton band. Thankfully, they have already recorded and released their tremendous second album, “The Years That Slid” (2012) and are currently working on their third. I’m glad that, although the White Star Liners haven’t yet received the recognition they deserve, they seem to be unsinkable. Just hope I can catch another show soon!