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Anyone who marvelled
at previous Seafood albums couldn’t help
being stunned by their intelligence and emotionally scaling sound.
Unlike so many bands influenced by leftfield American guitar acts,
Seafood brings a unique Anglo sensibility, as well
as notable depth, down to the moshpit. At times, however, the band
seemed intent on cramming every available space with de-tuned guitars
and wonky FX. Nothing wrong with that, but Paper Crown King
sees Seafood breathing out and inviting more in.
“There’s a lot more clarity with this record,”
says signer/guitarist David Line, “we recorded and
produced it ourselves in our Walthamstow based studio, Neat Science
Laboratories. This time round we’ve actually captured what
we sound like live. It’s the best recording of the band yet”.
The album was mixed by their one-time producer, Eli Janney. From
the menacing swagger of Between The Noise, the
haunting beauty of Time And Tides, to the woozy,
psychedelic pop of How You Going to Live Without Me,
resplendent with drummer Caroline’s gorgeously fragile vocals,
Paper Crown King is a sparkling assortment of heavy
guitars, sophisticated melodies and intelligent lyrics.
Paper Crown King follows on from 2004's critically
acclaimed album As The Cry Flows. Whilst it was
a good year for the band musically, it was one David would rather
try to forget. An attempt at touring the record around the time
of its release was cut short when David’s lung began collapsing.
When it collapsed for the seventh time during a German concert,
he ended up spending a week in a Frankfurt hospital. On returning
to the UK, and despite having had numerous surgical procedures,
David spent a further ten months in and out of hospital as Doctors
tried to figure out why his lung was still collapsing. The impact
of his debilitating illness haunts his thoughts and lyrics too.
On “Signal Sparks” he yells “don’t
forget you are living” with as much joy as wearisome
despair. “In the end,” says David, “doctors
had to superglue my lung into my chest. I’m a walking miracle.”
… Think Pavement and the side of Sonic Youth that knew how
to smile. What must irk David Line and company is that they have
consistently made better records than many of their heroes. This
album continues their strong run” – The
Eye (The Times) ****
“Their finely crafted songs shine through”
stunning collection of noise and beauty” –
gloriously bittersweet record” – Observer
out of the noise, they’ve discovered a talent for emotionally
resonant melodies, tinkling alt.country and hypnotic grooves of
delicate yet angry rock, never losing sight of the song …
they’re standing tall with this LP” –
with majesty … Seafood are masters of understated, lo-fi rock
that never strays into self indulgence.” - Rock
Sound – 8/10
“’As The Cry Flows’ is the sound of a band
falling back in love with melody” --Logo ****
very fine record indeed” – Record Collector
album is a magnificent inclusion to any balanced record collection
and should be obtained by any means possible” –
Some bands celebrate a decade together with ‘best of’
comps and retrospectives. Others, such as Home Counties ‘post-grunge’
quartet Seafood, do birthday celebrations rather
differently. Instead of looking back they’re going forward
with the best album of their career. “I don’t normally
listen to our records once they’re recorded,” says singer
and guitarist, David Line, “but with out new record I keep
going back to it again and again.”
The record in question, Paper Crown King, is Seafood’s
fourth and one of the best alt.rock epics you’ll hear this
year. David believes that lack of ‘industry’ pressure
enabled Seafood to concentrate and focus. This
doesn’t mean his band have alighted upon self-indulgent territories.
Instead Paper Crown King is a 24-Carat-pop-album
in the best possible sense. Tracks such as forthcoming single ‘Signal
Sparks’, ‘Little Pieces’
and ‘Paper Crown King’ all deserve
to be garlanded on MTV alongside lesser US alt.rock exports.
“I think previously, our albums were never fluid or constant,”
says David. “We would have to put in a country song next
to an indie song next to a more typical Seafood song. This is easier
to follow and, hopefully, could be the album to break us through.”
Success has unfortunately eluded such a patently talented band.
Seafood were formed on 31st August, 1996 by David
and guitarist Charles MacLeod (later replaced by Kevin Penney).
The pair advertised for a female bassist and male drummer in classified
magazine Loot and ended up with a female drummer, Caroline Banks,
and male bassist Kevin Hendrick. For all concerned, it all worked
out. By their fourth gig at London’s Highbury Garage, they
had signed to Fierce Panda records. By the release of “Scorch
Comfort”, a noisy but melodic track that was oddly
compared to both Sonic Youth and Bis, Seafood garnered much music
press attention. This was followed by the release of “Psychic
Rainy Nights” on Kooky records, and “Porchlight”
on Fierce Panda. All of these singles were eventually compiled with
their b-sides on the Messenger in the Camp mini-album in 1998.
During this fertile period Seafood enjoyed successful
tours with Kenickie, the “Panda in a Vanda” label tour
with Billy Mahonie and Tiny Too, and support slots for Laptop, Grandaddy
and Dawn of the Replicants, amongst others. The rigors of soundchecks
and touring meant they were well primed for recording their debut
long-player, Surviving the Quiet (1999). Produced
by Ian McCutcheon, the album united sprawling noise interludes with
flutes, cellos and acoustic guitars. At its most vituperative, it
sounded like Dinosaur Jr crawling out of piled-up car wreckage.
At others Seafood displayed careful restraint and
sensitivity and, above all, tunes to write home about it.
It lead to Mushroom records off-shoot Infectious signing the band,
giving them bags of cash and putting them in a top flight studio
with Girls Against Boys member, Eli Janney The resulting second
LP, When Do We Start Fighting... (2001) featured
guest appearances from Mary Lorson of Madder Rose / saint Low and
Scott McLoud of Girls Against Boys. A preceding single, Cloaking,
received airplay on BBC Radio 1 by Steve Lamacq who, curiously,
opted for the demo version of the song. Further singles including
"Splinter" and "Western
Battle" followed in December 2001 and March 2002,
but the album is best noted for the slowburning anthem “People
Are Underestimated”. Here Seafood
bought a woozy dream pop afterglow to their climbing lo-fi blizzards.
David has happy memories of this period as a “time we
were allowed to travel the world”. And indeed they did,
as well as loading up coaches with My Vitriol and label-mates Ash,
2002 saw them hook up with Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat
World. “We were given a lot of money by Mushroom and they
really loved us as a band,” says David, “but
I think we were wise to invest that money in our studio”.
Based in Walthamstow, Neat Science Laboratories provided Seafood
with both a money-saving and creative haven. It also provided the
band with solidity after one of David’s lungs collapsed and
his health deteriorated. “As I’m tall and thin it
means my lungs are really stretched,” says David.
“It probably didn’t help that I was a heavy smoker.
Whilst on tour in Germany I had this constant back pain. I went
into a hospital for an X-ray and the next thing I know I’m
in an emergency operating theatre. It’s taken me two years
to fully recover”.
As the Cry Flows was recorded slowly with producer
Ian McCutcheon at the end of 2003 and released in May 2004 by Cooking
Vinyl. An attempt at touring the record around the time of its release
was cut short when David’s lung problem flared up again. If
there was any consolation, this period has resulted in David’s
most emotionally candid and rewarding lyrics. If the wordplay was
even more thoughtful, so was the music. As the Cry Flows
shows Seafood have broad musical minds to match
the big guitars. Critics began throwing verbal somersaults as Seafood
sounded very revelatory indeed. The Times (London) marveled how
“much of the racket has been shaved from the surface of
the mix to reveal sinuous, taut tunes”. Q magazine correctly
identified how “their third album sees them finally blossoming
into a band of delicate talent”. While the Observer Music
Monthly crowed that it was “a gloriously bittersweet record”.
Although Paper Crown King sees a return to their
former stealth, it retains the subtlety and soul that made the predecessor
so spellbinding. The impact of David’s debilitating illness
continues to haunt his thoughts and lyrics too. On “Signal
Sparks” David yells “don’t forget you
are living” with as much joy as wearisome despair. “In
the end,” says David, “doctors had to superglue my lung
into my chest. I’m a walking miracle. ” In the end,
though, what didn’t kill him only made David and Seafood stronger.
Despite the grim subject matter, Paper Crown King
is surely the equivalent of the weather finally breaking. “This
is my favourite album because it was so satisfying making your own
thing,” he says, with real pride. “I think
we took longer to record this album than any other. It was so satisfying
sending it off to New York to be mixed – we knew we’d
Paper Crown King was mixed by their one-time producer,
Eli Janney. “He’s amazing,” says David,
“we flew out to hear the tracks he’d mixed and I’ve
clear memories of going up the Empire State listening to those songs
on our iPods. He’d done such a fantastic job. Eli himself
couldn’t believe we’d recorded it on a 16-track.”
Since the satisfying time recording Paper Crown King,
though, there have been changes to Seafood’s
main players. Bassist Kevin Hendrick has decided to quit to concentrate
on projects outside of the band. After ten years of touring and
recording, it can sometimes appear routine and run-of-the-mill.
David thinks otherwise. “In some ways Seafood is actually
a different place to be in,” he says. “Outside
of the band we all have different off-shoot projects on the go.
I record on my own; Caroline has her own stuff out there too. It
means when we reconvene to make a record, it still feels fresh.”
The genius of Paper Crown King makes that abundantly
clear. Seafood are a hidden national treasure with
history on their side and a classic new album in the bag. Here’s
to another ten years.