Not quite the full-length return that I was hoping for from the Suffolk band, despite some excellent entries.
Basement announced their indefinite hiatus to several genres worth of groans in 2012, and then promised a return two years ago to a chorus of collective cheers. Their second record Colourmeinkindness, released after that first announcement was a stellar note to end on, with last years Further Sky EP a reasonable one to return on. The bands third record, Promise Everything is probably as you’d expect following a four year gap between full-lengths – it’s ultimately a more mature release, but that’s part of the problem.
My main issue with Promise Everything is that, even though it doesn’t do much wrong, neither did it necessarily do enough right. There were only a few songs where the record genuinely excited me, at least in the way that Colourmeinkindness did, chiefly because the bands 2016 effort lacks the energy of its 2013 predesscor. Although neither truly tame or jaded, Promise Everything is rarely hugely dynamic, and it seems to pass without too much to write home about. In a way reminiscent of Seahaven’s 2014 record Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only, Basement have succeeded somewhat in dulling the aggression in their music and replacing it with a cool, breezy haze, footprints settled into sandy beaches instead of stamped. Promise Everything for the most part, is easygoing and buoyant, with just enough to remind of their previous efforts. However, in taking a softer step, the band have taken a step back, at least in terms of the longevity of their music. Colourmeinkindness will remain a genre staple for sometime; this record probably won’t. It’s more accessible, but also more forgettable – choice tracks aside. Things are very much hit-and-miss here.
Despite early criticisms in comparison to the bands 2012 release the two strongest tracks on Promise Everything are those which wouldn’t work on the bands 2012 release. Fourth song Aquasun opens with bold, heavy instrumentals before it drops off and cruises for a verse which launches into a melodic, massive chorus, vocalist Andrew Fisher singing ‘Dive into me, I’ll meet you underwater there sometime.’ It’s a glorious escapist piece which most effectively captures a new direction, sunshine sounds when the chorus kicks in and pulls an audience in – submerging them both lyrically and sonically. Elsewhere, Oversized is another strong selection, relaxing as it meanders forwards, bordering on tranquil bliss, floating at sea amidst rolling waves, asking ‘don’t you know Heaven comes only once a week?’ Both of these tracks make optimal use of Fisher’s effortlessly cool delivery, and to his credit, he carries a lot of moments elsewhere when the instrumentals don’t do enough. His baritone is well-matched for wandering blue-wave sequences, the low intensity focus of 2016 Basement which works best on these two songs namely. Elsewhere his vocals sit aside instrumentals similarly lacking in energy and imagination, the combinations leading to lazy, washed out selections such as Blinded Bye and Hanging Around.
Promise Everything is at its strongest halfway through, peaking around its center, and on either side there isn’t too much which stands out a great deal, although later entry To You The Moon provides another highlight. The eighth song packs more of a punch, heavier instrumentally, a towering chorus seeming to reference the bands earlier as the band aim ‘to reach for further sky’ and it does enough differently to set itself apart. It falls amongst a string of shorter songs, these later tracks often opting to barely surpass two and a half minutes, meaning the record seems to speed towards a close, but doesn’t always justify this speed with a fitting level of energy. Tenth track Halo feels flat for a finale, slow and sluggish, perhaps even lackluster – and that last term was never one which I’d associated with Basement prior to hearing Promise Everything. ‘Am I moving on or giving in?’ Fisher yells on third track Losing Grip, and I felt myself wondering the same on more than one occasion, even without wanting to. ‘When I’m high I’m high and when I’m low I’m low’ he bemoans on the title track, and maybe the record spends too much time in the niche of the latter, not aiming high enough. It’s hard to criticize this extensively, because Promise Everything is the most grounded body of work that Basement have produced; they’ve come back older and wiser, but at the cost of their earlier spark. It seems to settle, and where Colourmeinkindness epitomized a grunge-like defiance and enthusiasm this record seems to capture a hazier alt-rock stagnation, not dissimilar to the last records from Tigers Jaw and Title Fight – both of which I struggled with. Like those two bands Basement started loud and full of energy, but collectively the three have taken their foot off the gas as the years have passed, with the final minute of Hanging Around reminding me of Hyperview to an extent. I struggled with that record and Charmer (2014 Tigers Jaw record) not because they were bad records – they weren’t – but neither did I find them to be exciting or compelling.
I feel very much the same way about Promise Everything, a record I liked, but didn’t love. Basement’s third LP just doesn’t strike me as particularly special, and maybe my high opinion of its predesscors marred my experience with its follow-up. This is a good record, but I can’t class it as a great one. It’s enjoyable enough, sure, more so when tracks are taken individually, but ultimately it’s an underwhelming return.
Listen to: Aquasun / Oversized / For You The Moon