An alt/hard rock band formed in 2010, City and the sea return with their second EP, the hard rocking ‘Action figures’ demonstrating that the band are comfortably on their way to forging their own identity on the hard rock scene. Setting themselves apart from the pack with a strong production and an even stronger vocalist (Nick Cino), the band operate in the same field as Pearl Jam’s debut album ‘ten’ or Soul Asylum’s ‘let your dim light shine’ with guitars turned up to eleven but always mindful of that all-important strong melodic hook.
Opening with a strong number, the fuzzy ‘strange feeling’ will have fans checking the calendar so reminiscent is the riffing of the mid-nineties rock scene. Nick’s vocal is a key factor here, powerful and emotive without being whiny, he gives the band a strong edge which is further enhanced by Jon Daly’s not insignificant skills as lead guitarist. It’s clear that the band were heavily influenced by the likes of Soul Asylum, Stone Temple Pilots and Alter Bridge and they deliver a strong performance that would undoubtedly have graced radio stations everywhere a decade ago, before such music fell largely out of favour with the taste makers. For those with a taste for exceptionally well crafted melodic rock, however, ‘strange feeling’ ticks all the right boxes and it’s a shame that the audience has diminished over the years. Next up is ‘footprints’, a track that uses a chugging backdrop to build up the verse as the band drive straight towards an explosive chorus. For sure City and the sea aren’t reinventing the wheel here, rather the band aim at perfecting the wheel, adding their own flourishes along the way, and the result is a memorable performance that insidiously sneaks past your defences and lodges itself in your brain for days at a time. ‘Living it up’ has a hint of the seventies about it, employing falsetto backing vocals and a naïve pop edge that is refreshing in this cynical age. Again, the song recalls Soul Asylum’s graceful alt-pop shimmer and City at the sea seem to be that band’s natural successor as purveyors of sorrow-tinged alt-pop with a heavy guitar edge.
With two more tracks to go, ‘railroad (on my mind)’ is a storming track which opens with a great riff and indulges in the sort of driving hard rock that is always a pleasure to lose yourself within, all fuzzy guitars, gutsy vocals and pounding beats (Joe Piccolo) that will instantly appeal to fans of Alter Bridge’s impassioned assault. The final track, ‘how do you do?’, closes the EP on a contemplative note that leaves the listener in no doubt that the band are more than ready to handle a full-length excursion given the necessary time and financial support to enter a suitable studio.
Overall ‘Action figures’ is an EP that promises much. The band clearly have skill and talent and whilst they may travel familiar territory, they do it well. Ten years ago such music was relatively commonplace, but as tastes have changed and fashions have moved on, it seems that City and the sea have arrived at the perfect moment to fill a void. Certainly bands like Alter Bridge still engage in a similar vein of hard-edged melodic rock, but few other bands offer the same alternative vibe as City and the sea. ‘Action figures’ is a beautifully produced and well-written EP and while its laid back vibe may not appeal to everyone, for those who miss bands such as Soul Asylum, City and the sea have much to offer.
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