|People in Planes:
As Far As the Eye Can See… Label: Wind-Up
Sometimes, it only takes one piece of information from an artist’s bio to make you certain that a particular album is going to be worth your time. In the case of People in Planes, who hail from Cardiff, Wales, the factual nugget in question is that the band’s lead singer (Gareth Jones) and guitarist (Peter Roberts) – childhood friends – were spurred to form a band after listening nonstop to Supergrass’ debut album, I Should Coco.
Not only was this information enough for me to spin the disc, but I rather expect that, after reading the above paragraph, my editor will stop what he’s doing and send me an e-mail, asking, “So this is how I have to find out about this? You know I’m a huge Supergrass fan, and you don’t give me this information the moment you discover it?” Yes, the truth is out: I’m a complete bastard who hoards crucial details from my best friends. I’m bound for Hell for sure. (Editor’s note: You’re fired.)
But back to People in Planes.
This quintet didn’t just appear overnight; in fact, they used to be a quartet called Tetra Splendour, releasing an album on EMI in 2002 (Splendid Animation) and playing that summer’s Reading Festival…but after departing EMI, they added a keyboard player, changed their name, recorded an album with producer Sam Williams (who, not coincidentally, also produced I Should Coco), and found themselves in a bidding war amongst labels after playing their debut American show under their new moniker. Now, they’ve toured with Blue October, played South by Southwest, and had one of their videos directed by Joaquin Phoenix. Ah, EMI must be kicking themselves right about now…
Although Gareth Jones’s voice sounds strikingly like that of American power popper Bleu, the music surrounding him certainly doesn’t...but nor, however, does it sound like Supergrass, which is the more surprising revelation (and the one which makes me feel better about neglecting to divulge that info to my editor earlier). No, the end result of As Far as the Eye Can See… is an amalgam of several other British bands, including Radiohead, the Manic Street Preachers, and Muse, treading in rock waters far more often than it does the Britpop sound you’d expect. In fact, having now cited the mighty Manics, it occurs to me that Jones’s vocals also bear a resemblance to James Dean Bradfield on occasion.
“Barracuda” begins with a bluesy guitar riff, but it ends with a new wave keyboard line running simultaneous with the guitars. Although one might reasonably question the description of “If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode)” on the front cover as a “hit single,” it’s not because it doesn’t feel like a hit; the guitar work in particularly phenomenal on the track. The piano ballad “Fire” sounds like it could’ve been taken from OK Computer, and a prog-rock influence is particularly strong on “Rush,” with the completely fucked-up time signatures not long after the three-minute mark.
The more you listen to As Far as the Eye Can See…, the more you’ll enjoy it. Then again, you’ll also realize that, although the music’s great, the lyrics aren’t exactly Shakespeare. (“Don’t play scuba with the barracuda.” That’s all I’m saying.) But if you let the waves of guitars and harmonies wash over you instead, then the bad poetry won’t bother you nearly as much.