The Owl Service return after six years away, loaded with nine new tracks in their idiosyncratic style. For His Pride. No Spear. No Friend., they take traditional sounding folk songs and play them very differently, inspired by post-hardcore and post-rock. Sounds bizarre, but they really make it work. Unwound play Fairport Convention anyone? Out on Horn Records.
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- His Pride. No Spear. No Friend. by The Owl Service
7/10 Robin Staff review, 18 February 2016
Misnomer of the week: this isn’t the inevitable conjoining of Owl City and the Postal Service. Rather, the Owl Service are actually a scrawny folk outfit singing super earnestly and playing super traditionally -- with a twist. If you like Fairport Convention, you’ll like this, but there’s rock action too: riffs, to be precise. And so yes, they hoot and hum things like “I have been to the North country” under the guidance of twinkly pianos, and then let things get crunchy.
In actuality, the rock implications of ‘His Pride. No Spear. No Friend’ are textural. The band’s softness remains, with electric guitars and shimmering drums adding a light, emphasising touch -- like the harmonies that join the lead vocal, they carry extra flourishes of character for the stories being told. Maybe the more concise among ye know it as psych folk, and have heard it twisting through the otherwise simple songs of Cate Le Bon and the Drink. Songs like “The Skater” sound shot straight out of a ‘60s folk microcosm but are played with the sombreness of fucking Om, the riffs dovetailing ‘til death.
The record’s chunky instrumentation can make for a sluggish listen, with interventionist drumbeats and amped riffage taking over otherwise pretty songs like “Sea Song” -- while that’s all well and good, I imagine great things for some of these songs in a totally traditional folk format. That said, the Owl Service are fucking rockers, and this is good morning coffee rock music. Good job everybody.
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