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Do It Yourself - The Seahorses
Member Name: Jake Speed
Do It Yourself - The Seahorses
Advantages: A couple of decent songs
Disadvantages: Lead singer and lyrics are rubbish
The first and last album by The Seahorses was released in 1997. The Seahorses were put together by former Stone Roses guitarist John Squire and apparently got a fair wind and press attention behind them because of this. Many were still distraught at the demise of the famous and acclaimed Manchester group a few years before and welcomed Squire and The Seahorses with open arms (and wallets) but the fair wind was soon reduced to a faint breeze of apathy and dashed hopes and dreams. The Seahorses swiftly fell out and vanished. The album (Do It yourself is a dreadful title by the way but it was the name of a 1996 Squire sculpture that features on the cover) was greatly anticipated and much was expected of them with Squire involved but those looking for them to be the new Stone Roses were to be very disappointed. Perhaps the expectations were too high but even so this is a very uninspiring album for the most part. While the record did relatively well in the charts at first (the sales obviously down to curiosity provoked by Squire being the guitarist) the critical reception was lukewarm and largely dismissive. It just wasn't a very good album in the end and as everyone had been waiting patiently for Squire to do something ever since he left The Stone Roses the sense of let down was all the more pronounced. Love Is the Law - the single put out by The Seahorses as a taster - features classic John Squire guitar riffery and wouldn't be out of place on a Stone Roses greatest hits. Unfortunately, it's just about the best thing on the record and they had precious few further Love Is the Laws up their sleeve to dispense.
While his guitars are still distinctive and sometimes soar high enough to capture past glories (and are sometimes still pretentious enough to recapture past overindulgence) the fundamental mistake Squire made was in plucking a team of unknown musicians from absolute obscurity to be in The Seahorses with him. This move proved to be the fatal flaw and more or less ended the project before it really began. There was no room at all for the others to have a personality (not that they had much of one anyway if this album is anything to go by) and they ended up being the sonic equivalent of Zeppo Marx. They are there but not exactly irreplaceable. Electronic sort of worked because Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr were equals. The three nobodies in The Seahorses were never going to be equals with John Squire or have much say in anything. It was an understandable desire by Squire to break from the past and eschew any old baggage but the lead singer here (someone called Chris Helme) was a former busker or something and sounds like one. Helme and Squire have the most non organic songwriting partnership in musical history. He makes The Seahorses sound like Ocean Colour Scene at times and that's obviously not a great thing to sound like. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head that would be worse than sounding like Ocean Colour Scene would be sounding like Maroon 5. They should take every record Ocean Colour Scene and Maroon 5 ever made and blast them deep into the black void of space on a trajectory that will keep them spinning through the stars until the universe ends.
Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown couldn't sing his way out of a tent made of tissue paper but he at least had a certain swagger and attitude. Helme is about as exciting as a mashed potato sandwich. As a Stone Roses fan I was always curious to listen to The Seahorses but, one or two bright moments aside, even the mighty John Squire can't salvage this album and prevent it from sinking to the bottom of the sea bed like a distressed submarine (that's enough aquatic references for now I think). It's rather like that solo album Bernard Butler made after he left Suede in a big huff. His guitars were just as good and more or less the same but it was really boring without Brett Anderson doing the singing for him. The Seahorses accomplish a truly miraculous feat. They make you miss the vocals of Ian Brown! This is psychedelics by the numbers or Britpop done by someone singing in a pub. Very boring after a while. It starts off ok with I Want You To Know. Very 1970s and Second Coming and reasonably catchy. "Go and get loaded give it a go," instructs Hemsley. It's not Keats but the simplicity sort of works. Unfortunately, the lyrics on the album become increasingly eccentric and downright appalling at times, to the extent that you find yourself thinking about them more than the music. You wonder if they are serious. In the rubbish song 1999 you get the bizarre couplet, "The world's her oyster, anything she chooses, this little girl doesn't know where her shoes is." What? The Stone Roses were not exactly known for being refined wordsmiths but their lyrics were the collected works of AE Housman compared to The Seahorses.
Round the Universe is absolute pretentious codswallop (tries to be a cosmos exploring mind expanding epic but isn't at all!) with truly dreadful lyrics again. "Can we visit Jupiter and Mars and drive right through a star." Bleh. Suicide Drive (another forgettable song) has the line, "Because a giant squid, he stole my wife and kid, full story and pix, ten pence off your Weetabix." Okey dokey. Blinded By the Sun was a single I believe but is really boring after a while. It sounds like the Manic Street Preachers years after Richey Edwards left and they got a bit tubby and middle of the road. Parts of Slide Away by Oasis are incorporated into a song called Happiness is Eggshaped - as is She's Electric. Liam Gallagher is actually a guest here on Love Me and Leave me and it's one of the more tolerable things although that isn't saying much. There isn't much else here of note. Boy in the Picture sounds like a student group in a shed trying to play something from Second Coming while Standing on Your Head sounds bland and rubbish in a Stereophonics fashion. It's not the longest album ever so you can only imagine how mediocre some of the songs left off here were. The final song Hello is a slowie and one of the better things on the album. John Squire's melodic virtues always work quite nicely with slower songs and his dreamily chiming guitars make a nice backdrop. Helme sings ok on this one and isn't so grating as he doesn't have to try and do his Liam Gallagher leer and strain too much.
The Seahorses one and only record is one for die hard John Squire fans only I think. A couple of decent songs but it isn't a record I can see myself returning to. It fails to swim the channel and ends up splashing and flailing about near the tide breakers wearing a luminous rubber ring and a pair of flippers.