Album Review: Strange Planes – South Of OK

  • Peter Hough posted
  • Reviews

Strange Planes

South Of OK - Bad Horror Recordings

Recording your debut album at Steve Albini‘s studio and having Greg Norman (Pelican, Russian Circles, Neurosis) produce it is a bold start, particularly for such a very British band as Strange Planes. It’s a good mix, in every sense. While retaining the raw edge of a band at full power, the energy captured here is controlled and very focused.

It used to be the Stranglers that put waltzes on their albums. South of OK starts off with Harness, which is a driving ¾ time, super-fuzzy stomper. There’s an intensity to Headless Statues and East Berlin Comfort Zone (the current single) that testify that this is a band designed for the live arena and the recording process was modelled to reflect this, as guitarist and vocalist Ellis Slater notes: “We recorded the majority of the record entirely live to analogue tape which gave the record a raw and imperfect feel …” The Holy Book is a blistering attack on scandals within Catholicism set against a driving soundscape evocative of a very angry Dave Grohl, without being derivative. This album swoops maniacally from anthems (Fade) to wilfully awkward powerpunk (Curse of a Pistol) – doubly awkward when the following songs (Authors and Darkness Here) are masterfully melodic. There’s no respite through the galloping Torn Again and the headlong rush of Rest My Bones, which would be a standout track on any album but this one. The title track is another bass-driven monster of a track, lyrically exploratory of the pressures of modern living. Closing track Dilute contains moments as close as Strange Planes get to jaunty, despite its bleak reflections on the connected world.

This is a brilliant album, full of angry detail and menace yet delivering controlled moments of great beauty. Strange Planes are a band who make almost every track a standout track and that’s a tribute to their grasp of melody and to the confidence they have in simply pleasing themselves. It’s also a tribute to Greg Norman that this band’s live essence and power has been captured so successfully.  Just a punk trio, maybe, but this album is a symphony of accomplished and mature rock that’s way bigger than the sum of its parts. Magnificent.

South Of OK can be pre-ordered here