Life Aquatic Band are surely Sheffield’s most likeable party band, taking a playful and spirited approach to everything from their stage presence, to their lyrics, to the name of the band itself. But they’re more than just a party band. There’s some pretty conceptual stuff going on here. And as LAB have shown once again with their third EP, From Russell, with Love, they get up to some pretty crazy things in the studio, too.

As you might guess from their name – a direct reference to the Wes Anderson film – there is something meta going on with Life Aquatic Band. The way they play up to the marine theme at some of their shows – hanging bizarre and beautiful hand-crafted models of sea life around and about the set – is one thing. But the concept goes beyond just visuals, as I realised listening to their new record. 

All Nite 4 U, the first of the three short tracks that make up the EP, points towards what LAB do so well – clever, hooky, brassy tunes, delivered in their characteristically eccentric way. 

As Edge of Cool, the second track on the record self-consciously reveals, the Wes Anderson band name is, by their own admission, part of an attempt to be cool. Ironically punctuated by wild auto-tuned interjections and cow bell embellishments, you wonder how serious their quest to attain “coolness” has ever been. And, of course, that’s what actually makes it cool. 

Whether you find this sort of thing charming or deeply irritating will probably determine your feelings towards this short record’s conclusion – the melancholic and absurd Chagford Swimming Pool, featuring swimming pool field recordings. A weird and great tune, with a big LAB chorus.

In Life Aquatic Band I hear hints of Bright Eyes and a less-troubled Sufjan Stevens. Throw these in a blender with your Wes Anderson box set, and maybe a cup of chlorinated pool water, and you get something like the Life Aquatic Band. It’s truly unusual, and at times wonderful.

In general, the creative vision of LAB is refreshingly novel. Their songs are clever. In the ideas department, they have something that most bands just don’t have. But the execution isn’t always there. Certainly, this record is an interesting listen. Sadly, at times the recording really lacks oomph – on All Nite 4 U, in particular. I wish it didn’t, because it has real potential. I especially love the segues – where, incidentally, the programmed, quantised drums inject welcome zing and energy.

Just as they say, Life Aquatic Band are on the edge of cool. In fact, they’re on the edge of brilliance. Their previous single, Keep the Rain Away, may have even been over the edge. I hope their next release will take them well and truly over the line. Because this is a band with something special to give.

Listen now: Life Aquatic Band – From Russell, With Love

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