Phase is the fourth album from The Relationships, following 2009’s Space. The leisurely pace at which the band releases albums – with gaps of roughly five years between each – makes the point that they’re a band that is likely to always be around; and indeed, with members that are long in the tooth enough to remember making music in the mid 1980s (including stints in Here Comes Everybody and The Razorcuts), it looks like they’re in it for the long haul.
Unsurprisingly, no flash-in-the-pan bandwagon-jumping is evident here. Across its ten tracks, Phase falls comfortably into the ‘classic pop’ bracket, with strong songs at the core, given life with traditional instrumentation – vocals, guitars, keyboards, drums – and a keen sense of delicacy and quality. It also has a peculiarly English feel, because of lyrics that are heartfelt and warmly delivered, but with disruptive surprises of either sarcasm, irony, wilfully oblique references or a somewhat tongue-in-cheek impishness.
It’s perhaps the aforementioned long-term exposure to music that sees the music here steer clear of tricksy arrangements or pointless technical attention-seeking. Like all classic song-based English bands – The Kinks or XTC for example – The Relationships seem to deeply care about the craft of their songs, and their own musical approach is a whimsical, gently psychedelic take on solid indie pop. Whilst XTC took things to extremes with their Dukes Of Stratosphear side project, The Relationships seem happy to hint at psychedelia through lyrical references or subtle melodic phrasing: several of these songs remind the listener of the rich, often-mined seam of music of the 1960s, but they sidestep parody and remain warm and confident in their own space.
Let’s hope that they are in it for the long haul, as their previous form suggests that the next Relationships album will drop in around 2019. It should be well worth waiting for if it’s half as good as Phase.
Phase is available from iTunes.