As the name perhaps implies, ‘Is Bliss’ are purveyors of dreamy psychedelia. Citing Slowdive, Spacemen 3, and Verve (note the absence of the definite article: before they broke massive as The Verve, Ashcroft and co were ultra-spacey), they’ve acored support slots with The Jesus and Mary Chain, Wolf Alive, The Telescopes, Nine Black Alps, Robin Guthrie and Mark Gardiner… so that gives you a fair idea.
What’s impressive – and surprising for someone unfamiliar with the brace of EPs which preceded this debut album – is just how noisy, driving, and structured their meandering grooves can be.
The first song, the seven-and-a-half minute ‘Belong’ starts off mellow and pleasant enough, but suddenly tears into a blistering racket of a chorus in which finds Jimmy Stuart finding depth and grit in his larynx.
‘Can’t Sleep Forever’ builds nicely, the guitar wash pinned down by a stocky bass, before the guitars surge into a vast, yawning effect-heavy wall of shimmering noise that brings together a monumental climax, and calls to mind The Early Years, which is definitely A Good Thing.
When they do step away from the pedals, the acoustic songs show a clear debt to some vintage classics – ‘Just Like Honey’ being the obvious reference for ‘All I See is You’; in contrast, when they hit overdrive, there’s a strong hint of 90s grunge in the FX-heavy shoegazey psychedelia, meaning Is Bliss bring more beef to the party: ‘What t Believe’ sets all guitars to stun an amps to eleven to give A Place to Bury Strangers a run for their money.
If ‘Fall; feels a bit like an obligatory and slightly cliché ‘Eastern’ influences triptastic groove, they at least deliver it well, and the layers of strings that drape over ‘I Tried’ add not only detail but depth, and it’s delicately done.
There’s not much that’s strange about it, but it’s a cracking album that’s got range and no small amount of tublulent power.