Rather magnificent English indie rock with Californian overtones.
‘Diving Bell’ is the third album by Modern Hinterland, following relatively swiftly on the back of last years release, ‘The Longest Part Of The Night’. This marks a further step toward the collaborative project envisioned by their founder Chris Hornsby, with songwriting duties being shared among the band. “Once we started playing together it was clear there was something special going on, enough creative tension to keep it interesting and ideas coming in thick and fast”.
The four-piece are based out of London and their style is difficult to pin down to any specific genre. Chris is a Northumbrian with a background in the folk scene, the vocals are very definitely English and the sound is anthemic indie rock with a sympathetic lean towards California. If you imagine Chris Martin of Coldplay fame fronting The Magic Numbers, you’re not far away. They clearly have confidence and a sense of direction, which makes the requirement for any generic definition somewhat irrelevant. They recorded the entire album in just three days and have successfully captured the sound of a band firmly in control of their destiny.
The opener ‘California (August 16th 1998)’ deliberately references a specific time and personal experience with an air of regret, consciously evoking the fading optimism of the late 90s, where “nothing was yet out of order”. This is radio-friendly solid indie rock and is deservedly the single off the album.
‘No Escape’ launches in as though cut from altogether heavier cloth, but comfortable slides into their sweet spot by the end of the first verse. ‘Final Warning’ has that elusive easy, relaxed space in the melody, the kind of noise a band makes when they don’t feel the pressure or urgency. The sounds slide in exactly when they need to.
‘Good Luck’ is a dream-pop pause in the sequence which subsequently merges seamlessly into ‘Hard Luck’, a pensive observation on the joys of the gig economy. Finally ‘Blue Water’ introduces pedal steel guitar to the mix, resulting in a fittingly broad atmospheric finale combining the best of the elements established in earlier tracks before drifting gently away.
Their efforts have generated a body of music that is polished but never overproduced. This is album number three and they know what they are doing, their work is resolutely self-assured. There are very few flaws of any note throughout and the result is a consistently strong and competent album that thoroughly deserves to be well received.