When they burst onto the scene in 2015 with their debut LP Young Chasers, Circa Waves epitomised the BBC Radio 1 rock band. Their breakthrough single, ‘T-Shirt Weather’, featured a catchy chorus, coupled with some upbeat but inane lyrics, and seemed to be the perfect song for a mid-afternoon slot at a festival when nobody is overly focused on the music. To quote NME, “it was perfectly enjoyable [but] it wasn’t the kind of album you clutch tight when everything around you is going to shit.”
But the gap that once existed in the industry for a skinny jean-clad indie rock band has long since been filled, and the Scouse rockers’ second album clearly had to be something different to their debut.
The good news for their fans is that Different Creatures is a very listenable album. Circa Waves opt for a sound that is more Editors than Catfish and the Bottlemen, with heavier, denser guitar riffs. The lead single, ‘Wake Up’, packs a punch that was nowhere to be seen two years ago. Meanwhile, ‘Out On My Own’ powerfully deals with the issues of anxiety and the pressures of masculinity which moves the album in a surprising direction.
Unfortunately, despite the promise of the first few tracks, the album slips back into the band’s former vacuousness with the album’s title track. Frontman Kieran Shudall suggested when making the album that he wanted to produce something with more meaning and depth than Young Chasers. However, his suggestion that “If I was you, and you were me /We would be different creatures,” followed by a bizarre reference to Theresa May’s attitude towards Syrian refugees demonstrates not only an over-enthusiasm to turn indie rock into something political, but the fatuous nature of the title track.
Following on from that, ‘Love’s Run Out’ sits somewhere between a tear-drawing, Kodaline-esque break-up song and a middle-of-the-road, middle-of-the-album track, although Shudall’s parting comment “she text me during that” [sic] manages to make the band endearing. Just like how the album is no masterpiece yet somehow refreshing and enjoyable, the band seem likeable despite their tendency to embody cliché.
Circa Waves want to headline massive festivals, sell out huge arenas and release best-selling albums. While this follow-up suggests they are some way off their eventual goal, there are signs of progress: if they can convince their predominantly teenage fans that their inane lyrics are somehow filled with meaning, they will be making steps on the right track.