If one word must be found to describe this first EP by Essex band Green Dolphin, the word should probably be ‘promise’. The embryos of many an interesting idea are found disseminated all over the record, though after listening one is left with the impression that none of them is yet fully formed. This is not at all damning in this kind of record; there is a particular freshness in being able to witness experimentation as it happens. Experimentation is certainly what is going on with more than one of the five tracks that the record is made up of. There is an attention in mixing different types of sound, and the band clearly enjoys setting itself a challenge, with their trademark signs emerging as changes of pace, vocals that go from soft and soothing to suddenly strained and urgent, and some very interesting guitar riffs, ranging from a melodic drone to an upbeat staccato.
The band plays with a number of influences, mixing and matching them in ways that are sometimes unexpected. The vocals are both one of the most interesting things in their sound and one of their greatest weaknesses. At their best, they can sound like what Richard Ashcroft might have come up with if he’d played around with both blues and a vaguely punk-style delivery. At times, however, especially on the high notes, they lose some of their power; this is certainly an area for development. There is an intensity and versatility here that could be nurtured into something very interesting. Bass lines provide some cohesion where the rapid changes of pace might be at risk of disrupting it.
The EP opens on a lively note with Can’t Put My Finger On It, perhaps the most traditional of the five tracks – enough of a catchy tune to keep a listener’s attention. No More Matchstick Eyes, by far the longest track at over six minutes and also the most experimental, plays around with tempo and with a somewhat darker mood. The Narcissist has something in its guitars that is reminiscent of The Libertines while nodding at a more retro sound, going as far back as the late ’70s. Underdamping starts with a frantic burst of drumming that keeps a sense of urgency as one goes into the song, and it is here that vocals play more with punk suggestions. The EP slows down and closes on a more mellow note with Swallowtail, picking up a musical discourse that began with Oasis long ago and is clearly still ongoing.
Overall an intriguing first EP, with many avenues for improvement and presenting a snapshot of a band playing with different ideas while trying to find their own truly distinctive voice. The ideas are interesting and sometimes daring; the voice is still emerging – but what breaks through in some of the tracks suggests that it could turn out to be a charming and personal one.
Green Dolphin will launch the EP with a live show on Tuesday 23rd April at The Gunners in London – tickets are available here.