I came to The Wave Pictures roundabout from members’ inclusion in The Surfing Magazines. That band have put out two solid albums that expand on the noir surf and gnarled indie that first caught my attention. 2018 saw the band release two albums, the compact and sparse Brushes With Happiness and the more varied Look Inside Your Heart. This time around the band seems to have ditched the aesthetic break and gone for the double album proper. The rather grandiose title When The Purple Emperor Spreads His Wings graces the set this time and along with the ambitions of its moniker, the record seeks to envelop every corner of the band’s sound. That ambition entails a bit of shifting, which in terms of The Wave Pictures can sometimes be uneven. Like Pollard before them, the band has a knack as pop chameleons, but sometimes the voracious nature works and sometimes it trips ‘em up.
That said, I love when The Wave Pictures are zeroed in and zoned on a sound that works for them. Brushes With Happiness embraced the dry-ice blues that often runs in their veins, and that focus made the album all the better. Over twenty tracks here, the band is absolutely bursting when they chew on a buoyant strain of power pop. “French Cricket,” “Back In The City,” and “Smell The Ocean,” all embrace this crispness to find David Tattersall at his tattered indie best. They dig into their strengths on the kind of hip-swung, sneer n’ swagger tracks as well. The cheeky “Douglas,” the brooding and burly “Samson,” and the breathless “Never Let You Down,” all prance with the kind of pop pomp that Tattersall can make work so well, but the album does get a bit diluted within its vast reaches. There’s an argument to be made that an EP of more folk leaning material could have manifested. Much of this material is strong in its own right, but bulky in context. Even one or two would have been perfect as a break between the sweat and shake, but there’s grace in editing. Now that’s not to say that I’m not enjoying the spoils of Purple Emperor. It’s a trove of great tracks, and at times seems to be a sister album to The Surfing Magazine’s recent Badgers of Wymeswold. Both albums embrace the radio dial spin of style, and both are well worth sifting through for the treasures within their bounds. There are many magical moments within the Emperor’s sandbox.
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