Post War Years: Galapagos

Galapagos can be said to be a record that’s in a perpetual state of flux, unsure of what it is that makes it truly special.

Post War Years


Label: RCA
US Release Date: 2013-03-05
UK Release Date: 2013-02-25

British band Post War Years are all over the map on their sophomore release, Galapagos. You’ll listen to this album and find glimmers of cool keyboard sounds of years recent and years yore, some of which may seem readily apparent--the poppy indie rock slow rhythms of first song “All Eyes” may have you reaching for Surfer Blood a little bit, not to mention the Genesis-like proggy break in the middle of the same song--and some that will have you struggling to come up with the soundalike on the tip of your tongue. Does “Glass House” sound a little OMD-ish? Does “Nova” sound a little like Bryan Ferry, at least vocally? Does “Be Someone” come across as a glitchy electronica version of Vampire Weekend? And “Volcano” sounds reasonably indie rock--is that Vampire Weekend again, or something else that you can’t quite fathom? For a band that seemingly quotes krautrock and the Warp Records catalogue as influences, in addition to everything else, it’s hard to peg what this group is actually trying to do by assimilating so many sounds into their, well, sound. And this is also a band that is trying to bridge the gap between audiences: they’ve toured with Mumford and Sons, which would seem to be, on the surface, a rather unlikely choice for tour mates.

So, yes, there’s a lot going on with this band, which will either endear you or lead to dismissing them completely. Already, some reviews of Galapagos have veered on either side of the fence. On one hand, you have a four out of five star review of the LP from Time Out London that goes so far to compare Post War Years to Radiohead (!), while The Skinny gives the record a two out of five stars, and calls it “overblown”. Although there are a few reviews straddling the fence, you get the sense that Galapagos is very much a love it or hate it proposition. Well, I have to admit that I’m probably one of these fence straddlers: the album does have its lovely moments, but it starts to feel a little samey, particularly in its second half, and it just doesn’t make too much of an overall impact other than to leave you with the impression that it’s...nice. This is a bit of a shame, but you do get the overall impression that Post War Years are simply overreaching here: trying on an array of different sounds to the point where they haven’t constructed their own identity. Galapagos, then, can be said to be a record that’s in a perpetual state of flux, unsure of what it is that makes it truly special.

However, there is a fairly consistent first half to talk about, and, boy, is it good. The record opens up with the aforementioned “All Eyes” which takes a number of sonic twists and turns, making it an unlikely choice for a single (but it is, indeed, a single from the album). Once you get used to the roadblocks, it comes out of the wringer being undeniably catchy. “The Bell” sounds suitably spacey, and I can detect a slight Madchester sound to the proceedings, before the ‘80s-style keyboards kick in and the whole thing turns on a dime. Still, it’s affecting. But the best thing on the album is “Glass House”. This is just an astoundingly great pop track with Moog-esque keyboards that feel lifted from Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”. You’ll wind up humming this song in your sleep, with its rousing chorus and menacing verses. And “Be Someone” has a sort of afrobeat rhythm to it that marries that sound with the unlikely paring of Pantha du Prince. “Growl” even feels a little like a Local Natives song--something off that band’s debut album--with vocals that at one point come across as a little Bowie-esque.

However, from there, you’re pretty much sludging through retreads of the same thing. Only final track “God”, with its music box stylings and false endings, feels in any way remotely original and different from what came before. That’s not to say that the songs in the remainder of this disc are bad, they just don’t strike one in the same way that the opening gamut of tracks do. And, lyrically, there’s nothing here that will smack you upside the head and command you to pay attention--it’s pretty much your standard pop fluff, which is not meant to be a commendation, but it is what it is.

Overall, Galapagos comes off as being a little on the rote side. There’s elegant stuff to be had here, for sure, but there’s not overly much--aside from “Glass House”--that comes across as sheer brilliance. Galapagos represents a band still feeling out its sound to varying results. Your mileage may naturally vary, but this band is neither the new Radiohead nor “overblown”. The group exists in that murky middle ground of being something that isn’t terrible but isn’t terribly innovative and groundbreaking, either. In short, Post War Years is a pop band with arty aspirations. That the group doesn’t quite get there on Galapagos is a bit of a shame, but, you know what? It’s sort of fun hearing the band try, especially in the front half of the record. Post War Years is simply an outfit that still needs to figure out what it is, and get past its seeming identity crisis and attempts at broad audience appeal. In short, guys: pick a style and stick with it.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.