Friday, June 12, 2015

Waterboys 3: This Is The Sea

By now The Waterboys were practically a full-fledged band, with most of the previous contributors abetted by Steve Wickham on violin and young Chris Whitten, who packs a wallop all over the place. Always in search of what he called “The Big Music”, on This Is The Sea Mike Scott found it.
The lengthy opening of “Don’t Bang The Drum” is meant to recall Sketches Of Spain but comes closer to a bullfight. When the song proper crashes in, the drum is indeed banged, Mike Scott shouting his words and occasionally “whoo”-ing along the sax. The greatest song they recorded to date, if ever, is “The Whole Of The Moon”, loaded with poetic imagery and a majestic arrangement that incorporates horns and an angelic vocal descant. Even thinking of the sound effect after “you came like a comet” brings chills. Easily one of the best non-mainstream songs of the decade. From there the fragment called “Spirit” seems even more anticlimactic, and “The Pan Within” a little automatic but still stirring.
Side two wanders a bit, from the heavy “Medicine Bow” to the sung poem/tirade “Old England”. “Be My Enemy” chops up a sample “from a Prince bootleg” before turning into a gallop a la “Tombstone Blues” with a Dylanesque snarl to boot. “Trumpets” wants to be a tender love song, and while it doesn’t use the actual instrument, the constant blare of the sax doesn’t help the seduction. But the title track pulls everything together, a hypnotic Wall of Sound strum evoking crashing waves for a big finish.
Having achieved his best album yet, it would be a while before Mike Scott would approach this sound again. Those seeking more of the same should seek out the double-disc expansion, including B-sides, extended takes and other sounds from the dozens of tracks originating from the original sessions. If that’s not enough, a later disc called In A Special Place is subtitled “The Piano Demos For This Is The Sea”, offering just that.

The Waterboys This Is The Sea (1985)—
2004 remastered edition: same as 1985, plus 14 extra tracks

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