Bridlington isn’t famous for much: it’s a seaside town that claims to be the “Lobster capital of Europe.” However, it also hosts an annual Northern Soul weekender – a jewel in the crown of that scene’s aficionados. This isn’t to say that Feral Family share any musical DNA with the denizens of Wigan Casino, but they share in a desire to revel in a reimagined past, even if just for the space of an album.
Without Motion is formed from the foundations of both original post-punk (Joy Division) and its 2000s revival (Interpol), but they actually end up sounding most like near-contemporaries DIIV. ‘Cairo’ starts with a take on the wandering bassline, reverb and shrouded vocal style so often aped in this genre. And Feral Family are clearly excellent students as they manage to maintain this (moody) mood throughout, lending a sense of cohesion that can veer into forgettable-ness, but the brilliant craft is clear when spotlighting any particular aspect.
‘Deep Cuts’ has a skipping, frenetic guitar line and ‘It’s All Us’ sounds like ‘Gouge Away’ for the first few bars before the post-hardcore interlude. ‘Wee Van Bee’ goes a little off-piste with the Morricone effects and ‘Someday’ dials up the dirge-factor a little too far. Each song is a slight alteration on a well-drilled sound, one the band do very well but that doesn’t scream originality.
One area that is a little different is the social commentary of the lyrics. ‘Spice King’ is a spectacularly paranoid tale of a locked-up (and locked-in) dealer, ‘The Mercy’ touches on social media and ‘Sold’ is a gutting take on Broken Britain that Sleaford Mods would be proud of. However, in keeping with the vibe of the wider piece, the vocals are often half-buried in reverb and either indecipherable (or inscrutable). It works musically, but a bit of the urgency that the acerbic comments can deliver is lost.
Without Motion is perhaps apt in that the band do feel like they’re stuck between contrasting aims on this mostly excellent debut. They want to simultaneously pay homage to their heroes and to put their own stamp on the tried and true formulas employed. In committing to neither full pastiche or fully forging their own path, they’ve made a debut that sounds great while still treading water.