The Vintage Caravan

Voyage

Written by: AP on 14/01/2014 15:11:11

The heritage rock tsunami trundles on, its ripples now affecting a shore as remote as Iceland's, from whence come one of Nuclear Blast's latest revelations: The Vintage Caravan. I'm told this Álftanes-born bunch comprising guitarist/vocalist Óskar Logi Ágústsson, bassist Alexander Örn Númason and drummer Guðjón Reynisson, impressed substantially last summer at the annual Eistnaflug Festival, which takes place at a barren fjord in Eastern Iceland, so naturally their ability to woo a seasoned and hungry audience (this place isn't exactly easy to get to…) combined with my present infatuation with this retro style requires a thorough dissection of their debut album "Voyage".

The Vintage Caravan aren't afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve, as opener "Craving" immediately divulges a dusting of grunge à la Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, particularly in the singing style of Ágústsson; and the full-throttle rock'n'roll drive betrays a touch of Rival Sons, Wolfmother and others of their ilk. The riff which introduces us to the band may textbook classic rock, but the psychedelic refrain ensures the trio won't be perceived as simply attempting to capitalise on the ideas of others. It's not exactly original, but there's plenty of twists in this song alone to earmark The Vintage Caravan as one of the more exciting heritage rock bands of the day. It's catchy, full of youthful rigour, and the instrumentation is - for any retrospectively disposed connoisseur of rock music - rich with nostalgia. An interesting fact to note is that usually, when listening to this genre, I have a tendency to judge the band by the quality of their balladry, as penning this category of song is, to me, a precarious process. But in the case of "Voyage", the standout moments are, without a doubt, songs like "Expand Your Mind" and "M.A.R.S.W.A.T.T.", which are founded on swagger and infectious energy. In fact, The Vintage Caravan's crassness, when it comes to writing a ballad, is their Achilles heel, as the horrific "Do You Remember" so bluntly reveals.

It's not that Ágústsson has trouble finding a suitable voice; in fact, his singing in this track has a distinct resemblance to Eddie Vedder - in the best possible sense. But unlike Vedder, he lacks poesy in his lyrics, with verse like "We lived many miles apart / The way it drove us mad… / We talked about the future / How sweet it would be, you living closer to me / Those days are real / I see you every day / Somehow you could not see / Yourself with me" painting a serious grimace on my face. Not only are the words themselves prosaic, little better than the average pop dross on the radio; they are also delivered without any sort of organic flow, like the lyrics were forced onto the music as an afterthought. What this suggests to me is either that Ágústsson does not possess a particularly broad vocabulary in English, or that he lacks the imagination to apply it. I'm inclined to believe the former, given his young years (When Ágústsson and Reynisson founded the band in 2006, they were both 12 years old(!), deriving their inspiration from their parents' record collections) and especially the fact that English is not his native language.

Fortunately, "Do You Remember" is the only song here properly to cast a spotlight on Ágústsson's lyricism, and both the strength of his pipes and the creativity of the trio when it comes to forging the instrumental aspects of the music excuse the pressing lack of eloquence to some extent. And with "Winterland", The Vintage Caravan prove that they do have it in them to write magnificent songs in a slower tempo as well. In contrast with the aforementioned ballad, "Winterland" has a more introspective feel to its proceedings, initially by virtue of a delay-and-reverb clean tone first half, which gives the song a lonely, submerged feel; then through a sudden, entrancing Hendrix-jam; and subsequently by means of a soulful, bluesy solo. And Ágústsson's return to a longing, Vedder-esque style of singing once again, contributes a final touch of melancholia to cement this as the most scintillating song on the album, despite my earlier statement that in general, it is the more explosive songs such as the first half of concluding piece "King's Voyage" that represent its most distinguished moments (and generally, that is true).

In any case "Voyage" is an impressive debut which, despite its virgin flaws, can pride itself on consistency. True there is a general absence of grand epiphanies like "Winterland", but even so, almost every song has been composed with skill and, as you would expect from a band with 8 years on the belt, experience. The heritage rock movement may have peaked, but The Vintage Caravan prove that even beyond the crest, there still remain worthwhile records to be discovered.

Download: Craving, Expand Your Mind, M.A.R.S.W.A.T.T., Winterland
For the fans of: The Parlor Mob, Pearl Jam, Rival Sons, Wolfmother
Listen: Facebook

Release date 13.01.2014
Nuclear Blast

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