The following lyrics are from the song "Guillotine Dream," off of Seattle-local band Boat's full-length, Life is a Shipwreck, We Must Remember to Sing in the Lifeboats:
"A French guillotine to cut off my head/ It won't hurt because I'll probably be dead/ And move back home with my mom and my dad/ I got my own room, it's not half bad."
Holy-freakin' reverb. It's all over this record. A steady reverb — like the band is on the other side of Elliott Bay, singing across through giant speakers — permeates the record. But that's a good thing. It makes it real, like they are actually a Boat, blasting speakers, telling us about how they couldn't make it on their own and now have to move home to "I told you so!" parents. Moving home is not half bad, but it's pretty much the same thing as getting your head chopped off.
Steady guitars, accordions, song titles like "Albatross Appreciation Society," and distorted, distant vocals make Boat's Life is a Shipwreck… full of literary imagery pulled directly out of Coleridge's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner." Coleridge's famous old tale, of a sailor shooting an albatross and thus cursing himself and the rest of the crew, articulates the same distance from stability that Boat does in this record, giving the listener a new take on old themes.
With the reverb fully cranked, and neither the treble nor the bass asserting dominance over the other, Boat is a rain-soaked mix of late-60's art/glam, sort of the Velvets with a Ziggy-era Bowie as lyricist, and Nico playing an accordion. Imagine a solid "early-punk meets modern-indie" band on a ship at sea, playing loudly and doing whatever it is that they do, while wind and rain beat them down, a huge white albatross flying high in an indigo sky.
Without placing them on too high a pedestal in terms of song-writing, they have a Beach-Boys-in-Mono feel. But give them a local context; give them a listening booth in Sonic Boom, and the virginal listener's comment of "This is totally awesome, kind of like the Arcade Fire meets Modest Mouse" — but then again no — and you're closer to the context. You'll abandon trying to figure out exactly whom it is they sound like and fall into the foot-tapping enjoyment good indie-pop tends to give.
Life is a Shipwreck… is an ambitious first record, and it's quite good, a nice surprise from a band not even in the All Music Guide. It even comes in an amazing homemade packaging, eccentric in both a cool and a ridiculous way. The songs are short bursts of wildly whimsical ocean-going pop. The end result of it all is a record that will, even without the shout-out song to Sub Pop's Joan Hiller ("Salutations, Joan Hiller"), soon find its way into record stores and coffeeshops with patrons and sound systems that feed on that which is new.
They may even find someone else to make those cool record sleeves for them, and then mail them out to record stores everywhere. That is, provided their live show lives up to the standard Life is a Shipwreck… promises.