As far as album titles go, Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up is as puzzling as the band’s new musical direction. At its core, the album elaborates on the band’s characteristic mean streak, on their tense heavy riffs and painstakingly complex drumming. The result is dark and brooding. It is more reminiscent of Homage To A Shame than of Saturday Morning Breakfast Show; more of the hardcore, less of serene post-rock soundscapes. Sure, it’s crafted with trademark Oceansize quality, but it lacks that certain poise and unfortunately poses as their second unmemorable release in recent memory (along with last year’s Home And Minor EP).
Despite personal preferences, one really cannot fault their live show. The two hundred-odd lucky people at the O2 Academy earlier this month were treated to a beautifully worked set; a collage of their louder tracks that spanned prog, metal, and their own distinct sound. The sound they achieved on stage was rather impressive; it was dominating and crisp. Simply put, they had it down to a tee. It was if they’d been practising that set for years.
Oceansize opened in a typically vivacious manner with two songs from the new album: ‘Part Cardiac’ and ‘Build Us A Rocket…’. This was followed by more familiar songs from yesteryears, the most notable of which was the fans’ favourite ‘Music For A Nurse’. The sweet tones and slow graceful crescendos of the latter provided such a delicate contrast to what preceded. Its low, peaceful drones and earnest vocals rightfully had the audience under a spell.
Oceansize then returned to Self Preserved… with ‘Silent/Transparent’, the first really energizing song of the evening. The rest of Oceansize’s set consisted exclusively of tracks from their last two albums, including a rare performance of the menacing ‘Paper Champion’. ‘Ornament/Last Wrongs’ – ten minutes of their warmest, most soulful output – put the icing on the cake to finish the evening. The song is a full-bodied opus, grand in every way.
In the five years that I’ve been a fan, Oceansize are yet to let me down in the live arena. Although Self Preserved… wasn’t entirely to my taste, the gig certainly helped me to appreciate it. This heavier album seems like something they wanted to get out of their system, and I’ll always maintain that the calmer, more affecting post-rock of the early albums is their forte. But personal preferences aside, it is safe to say the Mancunians know what they’re doing when playing live.