From their debut mini album through to a 14-minute song that covered the different stages of the grieving process and a live show that was never less than stirring, Oxfordonians Spring Offensive have always been an exceptional band. Now, after raising the funds through a very successful Pledge campaign, we get to hear their first ever full-length record ‘Young Animal Hearts’. That the band raised the money to release the album so quickly is a testament to their relationship with fans both in the UK and abroad.
Starting with the long-standing live favourite ‘Not Drowning But Waving’, the benchmark for ‘Young Animal Hearts’ could not be set any higher. A deeply emotional song with frontman Lucas Whitworth’s powerful vocals at the fore, this is what first attracted many to Spring Offensive’s sound. Dark and poetic lyrics are given their chance to shine over minimal instrumentation at the beginning before group vocals and guitar reverb finally comes in. Lucas sings about how ‘I saw him first, beaten and broken by waves’ alongside lyrics about storms and freezing mist. It’s a dark subject matter but the song’s crashing crescendo is full of optimism. ‘Bodylifting’ shows another side to the band, with its rhythmic, melodic and almost spellbinding hooks. It also has the brilliantly visceral and self-depreciating line ‘I’m a party killer, throwing stones’. This indie-pop sound appears a few more times on the album, ‘Hengelo’ is a pacy and pulsating blast that covers an unlikely story (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24281632) and looks at the human psyche, while ‘Speak’ appropriately discusses the troubles and trials of modern communication in a chorus that won’t leave your head for weeks after hearing it.
‘The River’ finds the band at their brooding best as they head into possibly their darkest place. Talk of water rising and dragging you under is all delivered with a real boldness as the band sing in unison ‘As the water rose around my knees, I found myself smiling’. Immediately following this is the simply exquisite ‘Carrier’, a song that looks at not only the emotional state of a human being (‘I feel burnt out, I feel dried up’) but also the physical inadequacies of our bodies – ‘I’m a hot-blooded mammal, my heart’s just a muscle, it pumps my blood around me, and I need every drop to help me’, while wonderfully unfussy piano adds extra clarity.
The band are not afraid to tackle the more mundane moments of modern life and seem set on examining just why we all seem so stuck in the rut of routine. ‘No Assets’ covers savings, debts and bailiffs and sounds somewhat like Foals meeting Local Natives at a local careers fair. ’52 Miles’ finds guitarist Matt Cooper delivering the heartbreaking lines: ‘I’ve got what I need but it’s not what I want, with these shifts that I work it’s the best that I’ve got. I’ll see you again when we’re both off the clock, or I’ll find another girl or I’ll find another job’, before this is repeated and reaffirmed by his band mates over an escalating post-rock sound. The closing title track brings to mind some of Bombay Bicycle Club’s more recent output while also retaining a more personal approach that will resonate with anyone who finds everything a bit too much: ‘I want to fit in, I’m just trying to fit too much in’. With this album, Spring Offensive have repaid their fans’ loyalty and support in the best way possible. While called ‘Young Animal Hearts’, it’s obvious a whole lot of heart and soul from every band member has gone into the creation and we’re the welcome recipients.
Buy ‘Young Animal Hearts’ here.