Versus: FOES on Oceansize (’Everyone Into Position’ vs ‘Frames’)

In the early days of Already Heard, we used to run a regular feature called “Versus”. The concept revolved around a chosen band where writers would defend that band’s best record to date. Occasionally, guest writers from various labels and bands would come in and support their favourite album for a particular band. Today, we’re reviving the “Versus” concept with a twist.

Last month, Liverpudlian group FOES released their debut album – ‘The Summit Lies Skyward’. Through a range of cinematic prog rock, post-rock and alt-rock, ‘The Summit Lies Skyward’ has been gaining plenty of praise in recent weeks.

For this edition of “Versus”, FOES guitarist Joe Danher and bassist Josh Catchpole have squared off as they take a look at two albums from influential band – Oceansize.

Having formed in 1998, the Manchester-based band developed an acclaimed reputation for a range of albums and EP releases before calling it quits in 2011. With a sound that stretched various genres; prog rock, space rock, post-rock and post-hardcore, Oceansize have gone on to influence a range of bands such as Black Peaks, O’Brother and more.

Read on as guitarist Joe Danher explains why 2005’s ‘Everyone into Position’ is the perfect introduction to Oceansize. While Josh Catchpole highlights 2007’s ‘Frames’ as their best work.

Everyone Into Position (Joe Danher)

For me, ‘Everyone Into Position’ was the album that cemented Oceansize as one of my all-time favourite bands. Bookended by ‘The Charm Offensive’ and ‘Ornaments / The Last Wrongs”’’ serving as the perfect open and close to the album respectively, the album is an absolute master class in modern progressive rock. Furthermore, it fuses this technicality with an air of pop sensibility that ensures the the tracks are as accessible and hook-laden as they are musically intricate.

The dynamic range of the album is unrivalled, with ‘A Homage To A Shame’ showcasing the band at their most savage, whilst the serene ‘Music For A Nurse’ rest on the laurels of post-rock crescendos accompanied by a heartfelt vocal performance from Mike Vennart dealing with the loss of a loved one.

I’ve read that ‘EIP’ was a difficult second album for Oceansize in that they felt the pressure to find a commercially friendly middle ground in their sound – at least more so than on debut album ‘Effloresce’. However, whether a laboured effort or not, I think it’s a balance they’ve mastered perfectly. Whilst picks such as ‘Heaven Alive’ and ‘New Pin’ were the clear choice for singles, they are nonetheless engaging in their comparative straightforwardness to the rest of the album. In my eyes, ‘Everyone Into Position’ is a record that serves as a perfect introduction to an incredible band who, to this day, is sorely missed.

Frames (Josh Catchpole)

Whilst it’s hard to pinpoint a favourite Oceansize album, ‘Frames’, for me is the most complete body of work. Whilst in the first two records I felt like Oceansize switched between the more natural prog inspired sounds, to some attempts at the more accessible side of the band, ‘Frames’ is the band being the truest to themselves.

I think it’s fair to say that this is one that grows on you, and is to be appreciated as a complete body of work rather than individual songs. Whilst it has extremely varying sounds, take ‘Sleeping Dogs and Dead Lions’, and ‘The Frame’ as examples, both totally differing vibes and moods, but to me, the songs sound like they are related. I can’t actually put my finger on why this is, my only feeling is that this is the real sound of a band, not caring about being perceived as anything but themselves.

The seamlessness and the landscape of the album is something we as a band definitely aspire to, and I feel there is a real clever design to the album, something that’s been built rather than a collection of songs, with a beautiful sadness and angst that perhaps is too much for the casual listener, but a real reward for those of us who “get it”.

With hindsight, ‘Frames’ sums up Oceansize for me. Genius, under-appreciated, moody and inspirational. Whilst not being instant or necessarily an easy listen, Oceansize are well worth the time, and ‘Frames’ in particular is a real highlight, and its inspiration to us and countless other bands is obvious.

‘The Summit Lies Skyward’ by FOES is out now on Basick Records.

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