People in Planes: As Far as the Eye Can See (Wind-Up)

I want the real deal, not some hipster buzz wonder. Luckily, People in Planes is the real deal.

 

When it comes to rock music, call me Old Man Wilson, your crotchety next-door neighbor who won’t give back your Frisbee. I sit on my front porch with a shotgun, seated on a stack of records by Led Zeppelin, the Doors, and David Bowie, hoping to shoot at any Paris Hilton in a trendy Pink Floyd T-shirt who comes into my yard, thinking Pink Floyd is a shade of mascara. I want the real deal, not some hipster buzz wonder. Luckily, People in Planes is the real deal.

The Welsh fivesome’s recently released debut album, As Far as the Eye Can See, has several strong points, most notably the song arrangements and sequencing. The songs on the album as a whole, as well as the different changes within each song, fit together in interesting ways, successfully resulting in what guitarist, Peter Roberts, describes (on the band’s Web site), as his desire to create “progressive records…that take you on a journey and…evolve the more you listen to them.” This album does take you on a musical journey…a pleasant surprise to a shut-in who fears new things.

The masterful sequencing and arranging that connects the whole album is first made clear on the second song, “For Miles Around.” The song is reminiscent of Soundgarden, with a balance between melody and distortion, and between guitar and vocal. The last 30 seconds of the song seem to come out of left field, with a seemingly disconnected outro, which includes birds chirping, light piano, and a woman singing, “If you talk too much my head will explode.” And then, right as I was loading up some buckshot and taking aim at the stereo, the next track, “If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode)” begins in a glorious mix of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass. I put my gun down and start tapping my foot. Then the chorus arrives, and singer Gareth Jones carries the melody and lyric over a somewhat chaotic musical backdrop, connecting the seemingly random outro from the previous song to the following track. I thought I was listening to the White album’s kid brother for a second. After a few listens, my head almost explodes, but in a good way.

At first, I was not particularly impressed by the vocals on this album, but the more I listened the more they fit and, in many instances, serve as a melodic spine, giving the other varied instrumentation a chance to explore musically. On “Rush,” one of the disc’s best tracks, the vocals lilt and gain strength, fluctuating melodically in a Thom Yorke sort of way, which is made that much more interesting when coupled with a separate female vocal segment. “Rush” starts with a funky drum, bass, and guitar groove, and after the first two measures, a catchy wah-wah guitar riff is laid on top. After a few changes, the band is entirely stripped away, and replaced with the female vocal arrangement. The vocal segment is then rebuilt upon with the band, giving the song great musical texture and range. I shake my fist at these whippersnappers and resign myself to like this album. I’m sold, and I’ll ride out the next seven tracks in musical appreciation, without any complaints about arthritis.

Perhaps some credit is due to Sam Williams, who produced for Supergrass and also produced this album, but I am a sucker for an album that changes and moves and does new things; not just from song to song, but within each song as well. This album does precisely this, and as a result, what few foibles I found I will chalk up as songs or parts of songs that I just have not grown to like…yet. If People in Planes ever throw their Frisbee in my front yard, I will not yell at them in broken, gin-soaked English about the heyday of rock ’n’ roll. I will invite them up for some crackers and gravy, or whatever it is people from Wales eat, and thank them for taking me on a journey in which I did not have to leave the house.


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