You certainly can't knock Circa Waves frontman Kieran Shudall for having ballsy intentions: asked about his vision for the Liverpool outfit prior to the release of Different Creatures he bullishly replied "In five years I see us being close to headlining Reading and Leeds. Why the f**k not?"
The follow up to their 2015 debut Young Chasers, the quartet's horizon seems to certainly have expanded, the jabbing title track dealing plaintively with the feelings of local Syrian refugees living within the borders of a country which stood by whilst their kin were destroyed. It's a deeper sense of perspective that applies to both the music and the words - whilst Young Chasers was mostly rooted in a noughties indie-schmindie ethos which borrowed from the likes of The Vaccines and Vampire Weekend, the Waves have amped themselves up here considerably.
This take no prisoners/leave no one behind strategy needs a jump off - and before anyone has the time to express any concerns, the splay footed power chords of opener Wake Up are in their face, an obvious marker laid down, urgent and taking risks. It's a tempo prolonged on Fire That Burns, a pop-in-rock's clothing, big tent friendly anthem which makes plain Shudall's ambitions; despite the greater emotional complexity this time round, this quest for a deeper connection with their audience isn't meant to come at a price of their disillusionment.
From the band's perspective this marks little more than a natural progression, given that when they met through mutual friends at Liverpool's Sound City festival in 2013 guitarist Joe Falconer thought inevitably there was a degree of inexperience contributing to their early work: "We had the skills to do it, but it took a while to figure it out".
Possibly with this in mind Different Creatures sees them paired with veteran producer Alan Moulder, an old head who it sounds like is steering things gently in the ether. Never lacking control, Out On My Own witnesses the collision between desultory angst and a chorus fired up with camaraderie, whilst Love's Run Out is an unplugged ballad which gives fellow, slightly hipper, Scouser Bill Ryder-Jones a little to think about in the back room melancholia stakes.
If this kind of tenderness is the exception rather than the rule, the foursome can be forgiven; whilst there is a centre ground to hold in British music no-one in truth wants to take on weepy monoliths like Ed Sheeran at their own game. Even with this self imposed exclusion zone however there are passages in which new ideas seem to be at a premium and impetus is lost, both Stuck and Without You are competent but lacking the intensity or f*cks not being given of the album's accelerated start.
Different Creatures draws to an end not with a question mark, but something of a retreat back into the band's psyche, as having taken the new them as far as ultimately possible, closer Old Friends is a winsome tribute to those they may have marginalised in the process. It's a fittingly pathos-filled end to a big plan not quite fulfilled, the climax to a record that thinks big - and may one day be classed as the boldest of near misses.
Game Of Thrones star Isaac Hempstead Wright stars in the video for Fire That Burns:
Official Site - http://circawaves.com/