Review Summary: High Five Spaceship reach for the stars, with a result that mostly succeeds.
The beauty of the modern age comes from our ability to reach out and touch practically anybody, with practically no effort at all. The internet has served as a playground for everyone, and a lucrative gold mine for anyone savvy enough to work the system to their advantage. You can follow the trend, work the steep uphill slope to success, or simply be lucky enough to stumble into the spotlight. Most infamously responsible for this growing trend in so-called 'internet stars' is YouTube, a raging Chimera among sites that feeds off its users creativity, or simply their novelty factor, till it wears off. This is, however, what also makes that 'find' so much more interesting; in a vast wasteland of variety, sometimes you stumble across something different. This is where High Five Spaceship comes in.
Led by Christopher Bingham, a man known more for popular sketch comedy videos, and blog styled videos that range from traveling, humor, and contemplative pondering through the lens of a camera, High Five Spaceship's debut album Progress
serves as an opportunity for Bingham and a collection of collaborators to explore new territory, and with surprising results. While an initial gut feeling response to 'a YouTuber's album' can perhaps be unwarranted hesitancy, the mostly instrumental Progress
immediately demonstrates a desire to be something original, with the album dancing in between styles and making it hard define which genre it belongs in. This works both to and against the album's advantage, as Bingham's fondness for experimentation can sometimes throw off listeners with the inconsistency in the style of the music.
Nevertheless, when it works, the results are gorgeous.
Tracks like album opener 'All Roads', and the following track 'Home', relish in synthesized ambiance, with Bingham's slow, haunting vocals in 'Home' and lines such as 'and we stared, for hours at a time, at our prize, our new amazing life' dripping with atmosphere, before giving wake to a synthesizer solo that pierces through the void, backed with a supporting violin playing the same melody in wonderful unison. It's moments like this that serve as some of the album's highlights; moments that make you feel something. For example, the uplifting 'Cheap Divorce: Part 1', which revels in a light pulsing synthesizer melody and delayed electric guitar licks that drive the track fantastically forward, or the piano instrumental 'Delay' that trickles by in a brief spell of beautiful melancholy. Final track 'Nomad' slowly builds from a gentle synthesizer into a dramatic guitar solo, fueling the instrumental with a pounding energy that finishes the album spectacularly.
Tracks featuring full on vocal performances also showcase as some of the album's stronger moments, with the Daniel Dobb's taking the reins on 'Cheap Divorce: Part 2', an acoustic guitar track that seems to have been scooped right up out of a pub or small venue performance; the entire track echoes with a natural reverb that compliments Dobb's delivery of "and now it hurts all of me, let it wash away and let me be" nicely, adding a saddened reflective mood to the song. 'Disrepair' features Jenny Bingham taking vocal duties during a lighter acoustic guitar track, with lyrics focusing on the sweet musings of romance. It's a nice addition to 'Progress', but lacks the memorability of other tracks on the album. By far the best vocally driven song on the album is the epic 'Trust No One', an explosion of acoustic guitar and climactic percussion, light keyboards and somber lyrics all come together to make 'Trust No One' the fantastic peak of the album, full of energy, and yet also bitterness, found in Christopher Bingham delivering vocals openly damning an unknown betrayer, with lines such as "my heart can't take no more, it shapes to you, and falls away."
The album is not without it's occasional missteps, however. Instrumental tracks 'Lead To' and 'Eighty Two' fail to gain any traction and lack any real direction, preferring to repeat the same keyboard melody or guitar lick for 3-4 minutes with little variety. They come across as something you might find on an easy listening album, and while not unpleasant to listen to by all means, they quickly risk losing listener interest. 'Stick Cuts Upon', in sharp contrast, instead relies on heavy percussion and sound experimentation to create a screeching, menacing atmosphere of dread. It deserves credit for what it is, but isn't particularly pleasant to listen to, although this is most likely the point.
All in all though, High Five Spaceship's first album is a successful endeavor. Christopher Bingham and Co. present an experimental collection of tracks that displays a great amount of creative ambition. There are already plans for a second release, and maybe what will come next is a more structured, consistent effort, which is perhaps what High Five Spaceship ultimately needs. Regardless to this, the experimental, near-schizophrenic approach to musical style this album displays has its high moments, and for a debut release, it makes for a brave one. It's a good step in the right direction for a band that has massive potential. It is, for lack of a better word, progress.