Race To Neptune are a band that offer a thoroughly unique and unusual sound. The beauty of their creativity and indeed their poetic lyricism is explored in a number of different ways throughout the Oh Contraire album, and it is, probably, one of the most interesting collections of the year.
Wanderlilly is the opener, part peacefully ambient and part inescapably heavy. This is an effect the band have crafted and mastered – the gentle imagery, the soft yet gritty sound of the leading vocal, the use of melody – all of this creates a notable contrast with the thick wall of distortion and the addictive high energy of the drums. Cigars & Celebrations encapsulates this idea even further. The guitar riffs throughout the verses have a lightly reverb soaked, dreamlike appearance, something which powerfully evolves as the hook section comes in, and continues to mutate and grow as the solo loaded middle-eight crashes into action. Then you get to to enjoy the softness once again as you follow this meandering bass line along through its momentary musings.
The album is an indie rock project by all accounts, but there’s a striking amount of tenderness to it that really bares the humanness embedded in the songwriting. Threes & Fours, for example, is a beautiful song, the band’s use of lyrical imagery is sublime, and the soundscape created around it makes for the perfect bit of escapism. There’s a hint of familiarity to the music, a touch of influence, as always. On occasion the sound drew comparisons with Goo Goo Dolls, later Starsailor, Smashing Pumpkins, even Brand New at times. But as mentioned at the start, the band are massively unique for the most part, and these comparisons simply offer a warm sense of nostalgia for those who fear the unknown or have, for one reason or another, lost faith in modern music.
Bulletful Of Piss is a dark and enchanted bit of weighted rock music, though after the initial introduction, the music opens up into something much more calming and affectionate. The switch between moods is fascinating, a further example of the clever and unpredictable songwriting and composition that Race To Neptune are all about.
Iron Satire is a beautiful song and a personal favourite from the project. Something about the perfect meeting of guitars and melodies and passion – it gets to you, it gets into your head, it allows you to escape from yourself for a while but it also provokes thought. The way the music develops throughout is as captivating as ever; the emotion and grit that comes through in the final instrumental section is all kinds of wonderful.
Following this, Constant Collapse – in a way, the exact opposite of its predecessor. The overwhelming power and chaos of the introduction falls away in this sudden and haunting manner, to leave you surrounded by a single riff and a single melody line, with these intriguing lyrics that linger in your mind after listening. The softness is replaced intermittently by a manic wall of energy. The grunge element of the band’s sound is strong here, well placed within the collection, a striking alternative angle. Blue Skies So Burned further highlights the strength of thoughtful arrangement and proceeds to mellow you out a little after the hard hit of the previous track.
Bayou Brew comes as a completely unforeseen moment within the album, though by now you sort of expect the unexpected from Race To Neptune. This infectious country rock riff pours out, as does this high powered, fast paced array of lyricism. It’s a track that bares listening to on repeat whenever your energy levels are flagging. Then things come to an end with the charming and characterful Waterspout, another completely fresh melody and a slight snippet of joyfulness to leave you grateful for having had the whole experience. A brilliant album, packed full of great songs, great musicianship, and unwavering individuality.