Ship of Fools is the third release from Canadian indie doyennes Elephant Stone, and reveals a band experimenting with floral, marine sounds in an album of poetic emancipation. Distorted opener "Manipulator" is a rollicking mini-classic of the 'delicate revenge on a lover/government through song' genre. Doesn't pull its jabs. It has some grimey guitar, nicely layered chanting, and the occasional plunging wail to give a more in-depth, Hamlet-y feel to the betrayal which drives its existence.
"Cast The First Stone" is in a similar vein to "Manipulator". Another bass driven betrayal madrigal, referring obliquely to "casting stones" (it is unclear whether this is the Elephant type) and shared guilt. There is a beautiful cameo by a female vocalist who disappears far too quickly amid the threat of continued pebble-launching, and the song gallops forward into a fine, driving outro, full of pounding drums and ending in a sharp hiss. "Where I'm Going" begins excellently with some moody pulsing 80's bass, and from the dust of the two previous songs, it becomes clear Ship of Fools is an album about loss to some degree. There’s a handful of tired lyrics about metaphorical roads and being fatigued and a "Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon" guitar sound that doesn’t really work.
"Photograph" and "See The Light" are continuations of Elephant Stone's need to hew tunes from an apparently awful and unresolvable experience with a lover. But whereas the openers had a bit of punch and defiance, this has now been replaced with variations of “broken dreams” type lines that could really do with being left in Green Day’s rotting crypt, and if anything buried further. "Run, Sister, Run" begins in a similar, watery Starbucks-blues type vein, but has a beautiful sitar-infused outro and another beautiful female vocal cut which is the highlight of the album.
"Love Is Like A Spinning Wheel" starts with a sort of jaunty, overly saccharine refrain that’s like a friend cheering themselves up after a breakup up by buying a new pair of shoes, then marching proudly round to tell you that they feel great and by doing so reveal how maudlin their infatuation had been. Which you already knew. Again, the crunchy outro and the sound of bongos is the highlight. "Andromeda" contains some excellent sonic textures, veering between the sweet temporal chiming of Coldplay to polite Tame Impala-like sounds of cosmic plagiarism. We’re firmly in new shoes territory now, failed love an embarrassing affliction of other people.
Ship of Fools is an album containing some unusual and seductive textures (the “Eastern” influences in particular), but it’s let down by its adherence to the traditional form of bad-love ballad, which ultimately does it no favours.Release: 25th November 2016, Burger Records