Sea Pinks started off as a solo project for Neil Brogan, former drummer with Girls Names and guitarist in CRUISING. Sea Pinks have now expanded to a three piece, Neil being joined by Steven Henry on bass and Davey Agnew on drums.
Sea Pinks may claim to be, “thrillingly eclectic” but in many ways their sound is actually quite easy to pin down, whilst they may take influence from a wide spectrum of music; Big Star, The Chills, Felt, the music they make actually sounds quite refreshingly like Sea Pinks. Theirs is a world of jangling, crisp guitars, cymbal heavy drum phrases and pulses of dense bass. There’s the influence of early rock’n’roll, the indie-pop heyday of the late 1980’s and touches of the recent psych-revival.
Sea Pinks are from Belfast. The Northern Irish capital takes it’s name from the old Irish term Béal Feirste, which translates as “mouth of the sandbanks”. The largest city in Northern Ireland it’s growth can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution when it became a major centre for linen, rope-making, tobacco, heavy engineering and shipbuilding. Whilst Belfast has been heavily affected by the troubles in Northern Ireland, it has always been a place where art and culture have thrived and since the Good Friday Agreement it has become something of a cultural hub. Famous musical sons and daughters of the city include Stiff Little Fingers, Katie Melua and of course the legendary Van Morrison, whilst recent years have seen a modicum of success for Girls Names and Southern.
The first album under the Sea Pinks moniker, Youth Is Wasted came out back in 2010 via the Belfast label CF Records, who have gone on to release all his future releases. Neil released two more DIY compilations where he played virtually the whole thing himself, 2011’s Dead Seas and 2012’s Freak Wave, before deciding to expand the line up and form Sea Pinks as we know them today. They released their first album as a trio, Dreaming Tracks in 2014, whilst their latest effort Soft Days, their fifth, was released earlier this month.
(I Don’t Feel Like) Giving In, the opening track to the bands latest offering Soft Days, is also arguably it’s most intriguing and exciting moment. Low, pulsing bass is gradually joined by ticking ride cymbals, a Joy Division-like guitar line and a distant screech of feedback, it bristles with the same brutal menace of Flesh World or Savages. It quickly departs to give way to a scuzzy blast of psych-guitar and jangling Indie-Pop, but it lives long in the memory. It’s a trick Sea Pinks sadly don’t repeat anywhere on the rest of the record. Sea Pinks are a band who seem to almost have an ethos to never go back, and never repeat an idea, and it’s that ethos that makes this record sound so vibrant and at times exhilarating.
All quite surprising for an album whose title sounds so utterly unpromising, the name Soft Days is lifted from a weather phenomenon common place in the band’s native Belfast, if you can really call heavy drizzle a phenomenon. It should probably come as a surprise to nobody that any bands naming an album after drizzle should make nods in the direction of both The Smiths and The Wedding Present. They certainly evoke something of the articulate-gloom and clean jangle that was all the rage in Northern England circa-1986, Trend When You’re Dead and Down Dog in particular.
Elsewhere though there’s something far more sunny going on; Ordinary Daze sounds a bit like West-Coast surf pop, and wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by Wavves or Literature, whilst Cold Reading sounds like a rougher round the edges The Strokes and recent single Yr Horoscope suggests they’ve heard a Ramones single or two, and at just under two minutes lasts about as long.
Lyrically Soft Days feels melancholy but not always openly so, if anything it feels like a record in transition, there are more endings than beginnings but they seem to question whether that is a bad thing. In a world where so many albums focus on the downside of change, Sea Pinks seem to be a band who want their listener to make up their own mind, as Neil puts it, “as always they’re ambivalent and bittersweet”. You can’t hold back change any more than you can control the “soft days”, maybe today’s the day to just ditch the umbrella and go dancing in the rain.
At times these tracks do cry out for a little musical texture; whilst there’s variety in the song-writing, the production and instrumentation remains largely constant throughout. It’s a cohesive collection of ideas, but could perhaps do with the ambitious production these excellently catchy songs deserve. A minor irk on a largely enjoyable and exciting album.
Soft Days is out now via CF Records. Sea Pinks play Scared To Dance’s live show at The Shacklewell Arms on February 12th. Click HERE for details.