Admiral Of The Narrow Seas has been a long time coming from 1985 RIANZ Top Male Vocalist of The Year winner Andrew Fagan. Spanning ten years, several recording studios and vast oceans, these twelve tracks are like the contestants at a Miss Kaitaia beauty pageant – some flawed, each different but all united by their homegrown beauty.
The album opens with a bombastic and dangerous-sounding intro that soon morphs into the bouncy Enjoy The Show. Next track, Religion, has an industrial NIN feel and an addictive beat. One of the highlights of the album, Religion contrasts Fagan and guest singer Caitlin Smith’s downbeat singing with the wild instrumentation of Pete Zorn. Branch Of The Tree initially follows in the same atmospheric, dark and heavy vein but segues oddly into a light chorus with a sea-shanty tinge.
Get Light is a mesmerizing number, the kind of song that would suck you in to its vortex when heard live. Next song, Prised, is a nuanced and textured number with a great beat and a distinctly Kiwi flavour that would likely have a live audience dancing along like happy bogan lemmings.
Blame Me is another album highlight. The (at times uncomfortably) discordant music is the perfect accompaniment to a dark domestic story. Next track, Between The Day, is beautiful, fresh, and a surprising contrast among heavier tracks like Clemency, which is psychedelic, dark and dirty. Over this backdrop of doom Fagan’s vocals sound a little earnest. A more Devil-may-care, smoky approach to the vocals would have worked better here, but it’s still a great ride.
After all those delicious theatrics the next three songs feel a little flat, and may have been better placed nearer the beginning of the album. Drama returns for a curtain call on closing track Messiah, a mad, bad little number that could easily have gone on for another five minutes.
Admiral Of The Narrow Seas is dark, it’s dirty, it’s raw, it’s tender, it’s weird, it’s all over the place. It’s a new Kiwi classic.
Kathryn van Beek
Click here to listen to Messiah from the Admiral Of The Narrow Seas: