Sean Warman by Sean Warman (Album)

7 February, 2013 in Music Reviews

Sean Warman

Sean Warman fits enough ideas for two excellent acts into this fine, if eccentric collection of alternative rock and electronica

Sean Warman sleeveay back in 1998, The Beta Band released a record that has since come to be regarded as one of the finest records of its era, despite actually being three records in one. Grouping together the band’s three EPs Champion Versions, The Patty Patty Sound and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos, the imaginatively-titled The Three EPs was the triumphant sound of a band revelling in its eclecticism.

Sean Warman’s self-titled debut album is similarly unrestricted by blind genre adherence. It opens with the ambient background piece of No. 28 Intro, which is the vehicle for a dystopian tale of mutation and destruction. This leads seamlessly into Shinny Old Penny, a slightly less sinister, Nathan Fake-infected version of Radiohead’s The National Anthem, all pounding bass and airy electronica. A taste of things to come? Not quite.

Down And Out In London throws grungy, Ty Segall garage rock into the mix, adding a claustrophobic aura that’s like being trapped in the purgatory between a tuned and detuned radio. Wreckless ventures into electro-indie territory, while One In Ten is another grungy number. I’ve Been Through Hell, an attempt at indie-pop à la The Hit Parade, doesn’t work quite as well, but not to worry, because this is where phase one of the album, electronically tinged alternative rock, gives way to the second phase, a synth-drenched combination of ambient electronica and electro.

“A brilliant fusion of Nathan Fake, Kavinsky and Moderat”

The second half opens with Shoulda Coulda, which veers dangerously close to being a replica of Desire’s fantastic Under Your Spell. Tracks 8-10 are a brilliant fusion of Nathan Fake, the electro of Kavinsky and the throbbing basslines meets ambience of Moderat, with a little of Modeselektor and Digitalism’s urgency thrown in just for good measure. Where’d You Think You’re Going? should be renamed What D’You Think You’re Doing Here? as its Oasis-go-grunge sound finds it residing in the wrong segment of the record. Tracks 12 and 13 return to the urgent electro-ambience, before The Tunnel Outro concludes with a delicate wave of electronica.

The Three EPs was a triumph precisely because it managed to retain its sense of coherence, sounding as though a career had been compressed into 78 minutes of play time. It’s this coherency that is lacking in Sean Warman: it resembles a collection of songs, rather than a consistent album. But where the album is consistent, is in the sheer quality of the songs and Warman’s ability to pull off almost every idea that he attempts.

Perhaps the next idea to attempt should be to split into two separate projects, because either of the two records contained within Sean Warman would probably, on their own, have picked up four stars. The slightly confused whole, on the other hand, will have to settle for a respectable three.

Verdict: Electronically-tinged alt-rock meets synth-drenched electronica

Damien Girling