Golden Ocean

  • 50 Foot Wave
  • 4AD
  • 2005-03-07

There are certain records that take you back to beautiful, hazy days of never-ending summer sunshine and joy, records that evoke that the best of times, carefree and footloose, the aural equivalent of a week on a beach with a bottle of gin and a beautiful woman. Sumptuous, gorgeous, beautiful, melodic records. And then there are records like this. 50 Foot Wave don’t do sunshine — in fact I doubt they see much of it at all — and they certainly don’t do joy. Golden Ocean is the soundtrack to your girlfriend cheating on you with your worst enemy, kicking you in the testicles, booting your kidneys frantically as you lie wheezing on the floor and then stamping slowly and repeatedly on your head.

…minus those terribly predictable quiet-loud dynamics espoused by every shit garage band from here to Seattle

From pounding opener “Long Painting” to its eponymous end track, Golden Ocean is an extended exercise in snarling, guttural vocals, buzz-saw guitars and narcosis-inducing percussion. This is practically the epitome of a grunge record, minus those terribly predictable quiet-loud dynamics espoused by every shit garage band from here to Seattle. Wait a minute, I hear you cry, a grunge record? Grunge? In 2005? Well, it’s a 4AD record, and by Kristin Hersh to boot, so don’t tell me you weren’t expecting something like this. Fashionable it isn’t, but grunge was perennially unfashionable, as those lumberjack shirts and sixteen-hole Doc Martens lurking in the back of your cupboard will attest (and don’t bother fronting it, you know you still get a visceral thrill when they play “Smells like Teen Spirit” on Radio 1).

It’s not perfect. Like every great grunge album it has one — and only one emotional tone: rage. While it aspires to the likes of The Breeders, Pixies and the sainted Sonic Youth, the lack of invention and emotional range on Golden Ocean means it rarely scales the heights it aspires to. This said, it’s brutal, fast paced, loud and the relatively few ideas it possesses are used to maximum effect.

As a declaration of intent by Kristin Hersh this is a magnificent record. If 50 Foot Wave can broaden their horizons — a trip to the beach with a bottle of gin on a sunny day might do the trick – then expect them to produce an album that delivers as much as it promises next time around. As an album Golden Ocean is a one-trick pony, but it’s still a pretty good trick. In honesty it’s a typical, if above average, grunge record: there are no frills, there’s almost nothing contemporary and there’s little innovation here but frankly, when it is done this well, who gives a fuck?

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