“Sunken Ships” Plain Sailing
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” – James 1:2-4
I’ve said for a long time that my brother is arguably the most important person in the world to me. We went through a lot of shit together, not least my parents’ divorce during our early adolescent years, and for nearly all of the time we were growing up (until I went to university) we shared a room, needless to say we’re very close. I wouldn’t know what to do if something were to happen to him, which is why, when I discovered the history to We Are Augustine’s “Rise Ye Sunken Ships” it made it that much more powerful an album.
It’s tough to say that this is a debut album; between the two of them, Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson had amassed almost 40 songs to arrange for their previous partnership, Pela. Production of “Rise” was plagued with roadblocks, not least the eventual suicide of McCarthy’s institutionalized brother James, but also the eventual breakup of Pela, and frustration at not getting the right sounds in the studio.
Aside from the back story, the album is stunning. Good driving drum beats from Rob Allen keep the pace. The content, while rife with religious iconography, isn’t Christian, more about redemption and emotion associated with the stories contained within. Personal favourites include “Philadelphia (The City of Brotherly Love)” with it’s working-class, almost Springsteen feel; “Patton State Hospital”, a heady rock turning point about his brother’s committal (We’re gonna get you cleaned up, James), and “Barrel of Leaves”, a jarringly emotional ballad that balances the choral overtones of the previous songs.
“Rise Ye Ye Sunken Ships” is the fruition of many years, countless obstacles, and heartache. The pain is evident throughout; Billy McCarthy’s gravelly voice is full of anguish and perfectly reflects the content of the album. Both McCarthy and Sanderson used the theme of perseverance – the former, personally, the latter, professionally. And it shows. If you like you music to have content, to pack a punch, you can’t go wrong with Sunken Ships.