It is difficult to categorize Norfolk-based rockers Sennen, whose new album ‘Age of Denial’ has just received its US release ahead of a series of State-side tour dates. The band fervently resist being pigeon-holed within the limitations of any one genre, bringing together a sound that is equal parts prog-rock, pop, nu-gaze and even dance. Keyboards underscore synthy guitars, muscular drums buck-shot in the background, singer Lawrence Holmes spins dreamy, harmonic vocals, and the result is a beefy, transcendental rock record one struggles to write about.
Recorded with House of Love’s impresario producer Pat Collier, ‘Age of Denial’ is Sennen’s third full-length record. Their last, 2008’s ‘Where The Light Gets In’, was championed by Zane Lowe at Radio 1 and earned the band coveted support-slots with acts as varied as Editors and Explosions in the Sky. The record garnered favourable reviews and mucho My Bloody Valentine comparisons, but the band has moved away from their shoegazey origins and, on this evidence, vastly expanded their record collection.
Now the band have swagger to match the introspection, muscles to match the stargazing. Released on local Norwich label Hungry Audio, praise is due the four-piece for their loyalty; driven by State-side forays, two of the band’s songs have already appeared on huge U.S. dramas One Tree Hill (their cover of New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’) and True Blood (‘S.O.S.’) One wonders just how long it will take them to implode into the mainstream and play the stadiums their ferocious songs seem to belong in.
Now for the record itself. ‘Age of Denial’ kicks into action with the title-track, a breakneck Kasabian-esque anthem, and moves onto more familiar terrain on ‘With You’. The latter represents a downward gear shift, with the band sounding more streamlined and catchy – think The Decemberists or TV on the Radio, Holmes’s dreamy vocals pinioned beneath insistent drumbeats and smooth basslines.
‘A Little High’ continues in the same vein, exposing widescreen ambitions, though the production is slightly overbearing – fuzzy and burying Holmes’ voice deep in the mix. ‘Falling Down’ is a gloriously lush lullaby that would not look out of place on a Velvet Underground record – yes, even Nico. It is commendable how the band can blister and bash through an exhausting rock tune like ‘Age of Denial’ and then fan its audience with this kind of lissom brilliance; akin to a sucker-punch followed by procurement of a spit-bucket. ‘I’m staying where I am and I’ve got time on my hands’ goes the melody, but we’re happy to give Sennen all the time they need.
The album flows on, aforementioned ‘S.O.S.’ a surly, riff-hungry rock song teased along by feather-soft vocals. The lyrics are an enjoyable collage of non-sequiturs and musings; ‘There’s a time and a place/ Where we’re not a disgrace’ the kind of line that could siphon some Radiohead fans into Sennen’s growing, cult following.
‘Innocence’ features the four singing from the same musical hymn sheet, sounding cohesive as a hit squad and like ‘Silent Alarm‘-era Bloc Party meets low-fi Brendon Benson. Filler is kept to a minimum here, though ‘Red Horizon’ and ‘Can’t See the Light’ are relegated to the deeper recesses of the memory banks, while ‘Sleep Heavy Tonight’ reiterates Sennen’s sizeable creative scope. As luscious as ‘Falling Down’, it has set closer written all over it, with graceful glockenspiel-sounding percussion and rich, tender lyrics – good enough, in any event, to excuse ‘Sennen’s Day Out’, a feedback-overloaded silence-killer.
The album ends on a high note – ‘Broken Promise’ is a hymnal slow-drag, while ‘Out of Our Depth’ shows the band is anything but, channelling a Romani sound with the suggestion of an accordion at the start – though the band’s amalgam of instruments does tend to confuse and make this reviewer doubt himself. Herein lies the genius of Sennen – their sound is so expansive, their influences both heavy and distorted and light and painstaking, that it is difficult to hold them down. Just trying to write about them feels like performing a Heimlich manoeuvre, and their sound is sometimes like one too – effective but ugly in their heavy phases.
Fortunately their harmonic sensibilities steer the ship in the right direction for the most part. By turns euphoric, ugly, beautiful, lingering, heavy and hypnotic, Sennen are blazing a very distinct path. The best advice would be to follow them.