After the success of last year’s Book Club concept which saw the band release four singles over a year to be stored in a hollowed-out hardback book*, Norwich’s finest, Olympians return with new EP ‘Adventure Gun’. With a promise of a sound that is quite different to the band we’ve known and loved before, sadly there is less focus on literature classics on this EP, but the band have left their indelible mark on that industry (who’s to say they’re not responsible for the new film adaptation of ‘The Great Gatsby’?) and it’s exciting to see what direction they will be taking.
Replacing their twiddly math-pop moments with a broader sound, the EP opens with ‘Mountains’, a short song that mixes a droney opening with a more classic feel, all surrounded by subtle feedback. With loads of synth effects and then a blast of guitar, it has the essence of British Sea Power’s more sedate moments and when Ben Thompson opens the song with the lyrics: ‘You’ve spent your whole life inside watching shit nature documentaries on TV’, you know there’s going to be a sense of disillusion running throughout the whole EP. When this gentle and disenchanted rant carries on: ‘So why do you look so upset when they knock your house down to build you a road that will set you free?’ it becomes clearer that this is an unassuming but despairing outburst against society. This is followed by the first of two remixes of older Olympians songs, ‘From Your Head’ which has been given a glitch psychedelic makeover that removes it far away from the slow-burner it used to be. The second previously released song on the EP is ‘Tidy House, Tiny Mind’, and now it sounds remarkably like a Baths take on a Fanfarlo single.
Recent single ‘Filling My Heart with Weird Dreams’ is another delicate affair that has regular singer Dan Harvey back on lead vocals, and he’s also feeling world weary and largely fed up with the general public. The line: ‘I can barely hide my anger when you open your mouth to speak, because I know full well when you start your sentences they continue endlessly without point or punctuation’ will please grammar fans, while the next line:‘I work a horrible job every day, and I believe in music and truth and things like that, what a stupid arsehole’ will also resonate with many, especially those who are prone to undervaluing themselves. The tremendous build-up of Efterklang-style harmonies balances out this resigned sense of anger and reluctant acceptance of modern culture’s attitudes. There’s a maturity in the opening lines of ‘We Lost Our Hair and in a Way Our Minds’ too, a dark glockenspiel-enhanced song that features a clever breakdown at around the one-and-a-half minute mark.
This Among Brothers-style ambience is also fully present on ‘Home is Where Your Heart Breaks’. Another song title that sums up the downbeat and subdued nature of this EP, Dan sings about having: ‘No purpose’ and: ‘no direction’ and there’s an overarching feeling of loneliness running throughout it, especially when the entire band elongatedly sings: ‘We surely make a fucking mess’. With elegant instrumentation and a subject matter that is grounded in reality: ‘The freezing concrete, the long walk home, these are the things you gave us that we’ll never let go’, this is a song that has a graceful defeated quality but also shows a band not afraid to lay their feelings, and sense of humour, on the line. While not as immediate as previous Olympians releases, the expansive sound of this EP is oh-so-rewarding. Olympians are expertly calling the shots on this particular adventure and it’s an absolute joy to go along for the ride.
‘Adventure Gun’ is released via Barely Regal Records on 29 April 2013.
*My Book Club book was Dale Winton’s autobiography, just in case you were wondering.