Review: We Are The Ocean at Portland Arms

Tom Bevan 21 May 2015

The first time I saw We Are The Ocean was in the Scala, near King's Cross. I had gone to hear the song Ark performed live, having grown increasingly obsessed with its epic-rock genius after hearing it on the radio. 'Into the void where the guardians run'. A lyric that can't but send a shiver of teenage excitement through you. A lyric that makes you glad you didn't throw away those Dark Angel or Buffy posters, and somehow validates the time you've spent playing World of Warcraft. And a wonderfully meaningless line in a wonderfully meaningless song, completing a wonderful night.

Six months on, and We Are The Ocean are touring the release of their fourth album, Ark. The album has received mixed reviews from critics, being touted as having several big hits with a fair smattering of monotony and poor song writing. For me, that's not fair, with these reviewers missing the beauty in comfortable sound. Sometimes music doesn't have to be innovative, difficult, meaningful or complicated. Ark is enjoyable because it isn't a challenge, and it also flows well as an album. The question however would be whether this cosy rock sound would translate into a good live performance at the Portland Arms.

It felt that it took We Are The Ocean several songs to get into the energy of the set. However once the funk rock genius Good For You had worked it's magic, a real sense of urgency appeared. Fundamental to this was the tight, polished nature of the clever interplay between the vocalists, and the evident musical ability of the performers, with lead guitarist Alfie Scully particularly worthy of note. The band produced a brilliant middle section of their performance, roaring through tracks such as the second single Holy Fire, I Wanna Be, Wild and of course, the genius that is Ark. The exceptional, raw vocals of Liam Cromby was given space to shine through on these down-tempo tracks. The set was closed by playing a few slightly harder older numbers, with The Waiting Room perfectly complementing new material.

We Are The Ocean have everything needed to be superstars. They are attractive, exceptionally tight, have vocal talents from Cromby, and many exceptional songs. Their performance was fun and easy to enjoy, and they should be playing to much larger, more energetic audiences. Their music appeals to a teenage sense of fun, and conveys a carefree optimism that some revel in, some access occasionally, and some desperately lack and potentially with one more album they could produce a set that could lose the few unremarkable songs that reviewers focus upon too harshly. When that happens, they will fill stadiums.