Aqualung - 10 Futures

by Laura Clarke

I’ve been a fan of Aqualung since I was about fourteen. In the midst of my obsession with the US teen drama, One Tree Hill (don’t judge me), I avidly searched for my favourite songs played on the show. During one particularly emotional scene where the mother of the deceased boy responsible for the elusive ‘school shooting’ episode was delivered his High School Yearbook, Aqualung’s Something To Believe In played. The song is beautiful and emotional and it has always stuck with me. Needless to say, the track’s home album, Memory Man, and its similarly styled predecessor, Strange & Beautiful, are fantastic.

Following an unintentional hiatus from Aqualung, I naively assumed that his 2015 album would be new, refreshing, yet vividly reminiscent of his 2007 sound. I was wrong. 10 Futures is quite frankly bizarre. The whole album lacks identity, with each song sounding completely different from the last. It takes diversity a little too far, with a mishmash of competing styles and tones. I’d find it almost impossible to listen to the record from start to finish because it caters for too many moods. I like knowing what to listen to when I feel happy, sad, stressed, or tranquil. While my housemates joke about my mood swings, I never (or rarely) experience these four emotions within the 35 minutes it would take to listen to the album start to finish. Resultantly, as a collection of pieces, 10 Futures falls rather flat. Yet in order to give credit where it’s due, or to delve a little deeper into the record’s bizarreness, I shall briefly explore its weird and occasionally wonderful specifics.

The weird:

I’ll begin with notable negativities in order to bring this review to a sunnier closure.

Opening number, Tape 2 Tape, is a bit strange. Is that a typewriter I hear in the background? What does “Shall we go tape to tape” mean? The drums in the background are kind of cool but they also remind me of the accompanying score to a tense film scene. Suddenly, the track becomes stressfully erratic two minutes in, emphasising my aforementioned point about a complete inconsistency of tone.

I do not like Be Beautiful. Vocals which sound suspiciously like Bono bring back suppressed memories of U2’s new album that was sadly inflicted upon iPhone owners everywhere. The song is clubby, yet attempting to be epic and meaningful – a bit of an Enrique Iglesias-esque try-hard.

In New Low the album reaches a new low. Again, I hear the voice of Bono. Was he temporarily hired? Why does Aqualung randomly sound like Bono? Not that I have anything against Bono (aside from his participation in Songs Of Innocence). I’m confused, because Aqualung never sounded like Bono before. But more than that, I am saddened by the annoying use of instruments in this song. Occasionally, the triangle can add cuteness or sophistication to a musical piece – throwing one in during the last ten seconds failed to achieve this.

The wonderful:

I really try to be positive. I have listened to every song on this album in an attempt to find one that I can genuinely say I like, or can appreciate from an objective stylistic angle.

Hearts (SpinWheelOscillate) is okay. It’s interesting without confusing my emotions. I enjoy the powerfully lethargic use of drums (an oxymoron which I think describes the sound quite accurately) accompanying Aqualung’s suddenly Bono-lacking vocals. I’d say that this track is your classic deep coda song to a TV episode. I always liked those, so this one shall receive a thumbs up.

Aside from that, none of the other songs appeal to me. Everything and Clean are fairly lifeless, and the other more upbeat tracks are just too eccentric for my taste.

In the balancing exercise between weird and wonderful, the scales are clearly tipped in the direction of weird. Perhaps some will feel differently, but I just don’t get this album.