We Are Augustines - Rise Ye Sunken Ships

Their strength lies firmly rooted in the earnestness of their lyrics.

Label: EMI

Rating: 9

When We Are Augustines supported The Boxer Rebellion in London a year ago, there was little doubt that this band loved what they were doing. Playing every note with such frenetic enthusiasm, they not only upstaged their po-faced compatriots of the main act, they were at risk of having more fun than the whole of the audience put together.

Their debut, ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’ elegantly mirrors their frenetic live performances in a tamer, more restrained fashion. An elegy in many ways to the loss of songwriter and lead vocalist Billy McCarthy’s brother and mother to schizophrenia and substance abuse, by rights the album ought to be a sobering affair. Instead, it is a rousing, triumphant piece of work that resonates with a biographical authenticity and an unrelenting search for redemption.

Emerging from the ashes of McCarthy’s previous outfit Pela, this new incarnation is thankfully more than a simple rehash under a different name, although We Are Augustines spark a similar sense of feverish devotion amongst fans - and rightly so. Specialising in a particular brand of heartfelt rock n’ roll that gently nods to both The Gaslight Anthem and the haunting poignancy of The National along the way, their strength lies firmly rooted in the earnestness of their lyrics.

References to McCarthy’s brother and mother frequently litter the album, most explicitly on ‘Juarez’ (‘Lord I see red and I’m praying on my bed / I got a drunk for a mother, got a saint for a brother…’) and the harrowing ‘Augustine’ (‘No one saw you wave your white flag / No one saw your family photo album’). However cathartic these words are for McCarthy, they consciously never stray over the line to over-sentimentality, sticking resolutely to being an effective means of recreating past memories and experiences.

The band’s first single ‘Book Of James’ is a genuine highlight, starting like it was culled from Nebraska era Springsteen and delivered like it was designed to be sung along with an audience. Whilst it may be a minute too long, it is to the band’s credit that this is perhaps the only minor gripe amongst the album’s twelve tracks.

‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’ is a monster of an album, rich in credibility and one that is often raucous, but never noisy. Despite the subject matter at hand, there is at its core a huge degree of heart and warmth that serves as a potent reminder of why we fell in love with rock n’ roll in the first place.