It is rare these days to hear a new song and then feel compelled to immediately play it again… and then play it again, but that’s exactly what happened upon hearing the magnificently catchy and groove-laden Coverland on A Drop in the Ocean, the second album by the memorably-named Last Flight To Pluto. There is something really refreshing about a rock song which is instantly engaging with a driving, insistent riff and straightforward but heartfelt lyrics, set within a memorable melody and chorus, sprinkled with some captivating but not excessive solos. This is rather stylish, different and unpredictable. The distinctive cartoon/graphic novel-type artwork by Rachel Edwards is a reflection of the band’s evident desire to present their ideas in a fresh and contemporary style with a bit of a sassy or tongue in cheek twist.
I must confess to having missed their first flight to Pluto, the debut album See You at the End in 2015, so I was not entirely sure what to expect. What is clear is that this is a talented group of musicians with an ear for a good rock song. The experience of some of the band in the ‘Covers’ band circuit has had a two-edged effect upon them – they have clearly been able to hone their playing skills with many nights performing, effectively pretending to be someone else for punters wanting to satisfy a nostalgic itch. However, that experience has also driven the band to want to write and release their own music, which must be far more satisfying. This is most exemplified in the aforementioned Coverland, accompanied with a bored looking performing monkey with a ball and chain in the visually enjoyable album artwork. The opening lines lay out the frustration of such a performing experience: You want me to be everyone, Yet not be myself, and the closing lines sum up the feeling of emptiness felt in just endlessly playing covers of other artists without the opportunity to express one’s own feelings through your own music:
“Starlight Shining in my Eyes, So Bright but I don’t feel a thing,
It’s not my Heart that sings for you.”
When a musician as talented and as eminent as Robert Reed from Magenta takes an interest in a band then it’s worth taking some time to listen to what he hears in them. During the recording of the album, Last Flight To Pluto were looking for some keyboards to add to the impressive opening track, Masheena. Their drummer, Darren Joseph, turned to his former bandmate in Ezra, Rob Reed, for his input. Apparently, Reed was so impressed with the song he was asked to play on that he expressed an interest in the whole album and subsequently signed the band to his label, White Knight Records. Reed certainly adds some classy keyboards to Masheena with suitably machine-like electronic effects and a synth-laden intro underlying some cool drumming leading up to Alice Freya’s excellent and distinctive vocal, with a style more associated with indie rock, smouldering with intensity. A quieter interlude features some bluesy organ work and piano under Freya’s impassioned vocal before the whole band lock into a powerful rock solid driving beat with Lewis Kreft on bass anchoring the whole piece alongside Daz Joseph’s drumming. A swirling synth line from Reed is followed by some fluid guitar soloing before the song rather gracefully draws to a conclusion – it’s nearly 9 minutes and packs a lot in but crucially it does not feel excessive or indulgent, it’s just what the song needs. As an opening song for such a new band it successfully draws in the listener. Aside from the aforementioned standout track Coverland, other highlights include The Kings are Dead and Supergirl, although to be fair there are no weak songs. The Kings are Dead kicks off with a buzzing synth line leading into an undulating double guitar intro from Jack Parry and Ryan Barnard. This is an album which is largely characterised by the high-quality double guitar work, more so than the more restrained keyboard elements. Kreft and Joseph drop into a great groove and the song rolls along infectiously into a fabulous rocking section with soaring, bubbling guitars underpinning Freya’s impressive and chilling vocal lines:
“Blame the Future on yourselves, You played your part in the past
Did you educate your children, Or take it for granted it would last.”
Underneath the flashy cartoon-like exterior of the album artwork and the songs, Last Flight To Pluto also conceal some serious points with a song seemingly aimed at our leaders and the part we played in putting them there. Freya later proclaims more hopefully: “Transform yourselves, Your Kings are Dead.” The second half increases in power and tempo as Last Flight To Pluto really take off, borne aloft on a potent mixture of heavy rock-inflected guitar textures and soaring solos. However, as with so much of this band, these instrumental excursions are not excessive and serve the song rather than dominate it.
Last Flight To Pluto turn up the ‘sassiness’ to maximum on the swaggering opening to album closer Supergirl, filled with killer bass lines and guitar riffs underpinning Alice Freya in full-on ‘Paloma Faith’ mode (that is a good thing!). A brief rap precedes a powerful chiming double guitar attack… and all this is within the first half of the song! The pace and tempo change significantly from the party girl bluster and the song perhaps focuses on the underside of the brash superficial Supergirl exterior:
“Don’t you know there can be a better way, Don’t light it up.”
This versatile band smoothly glide into a more pensive, regretful atmosphere with flowing melodic guitar lines guiding us to the conclusion as we go full circle, hearing a reprise of the synth effects that started the album.
A Drop in the Ocean is a remarkably assured album from a relatively new band, full of imagination and attitude but also the musical chops to pull it all off with style. If you’re looking for some fresh, accessible rock songs with distinctive vocals and musicianship played with pizzazz and brio then the Last Flight To Pluto is certainly worth a trip.
01. Masheena (8:52)
02. Time And Love (7:00)
03. The Kings Are Dead (8:09)
04. Coverland (8:22)
05. Morning Glow (7:45)
06. Supergirl (9:43)
Total Time – 49:51
Alice Freya – Vocals, Guitars
Jack Parry – Guitars
Ryan Barnard – Guitars
Lewis Kreft – Bass Guitar
Darren Joseph – Drums, Keyboards
Andy Edwards – Keyboards
Nick Lloyd – Keyboards (occasional)
Rob Reed – Piano, Moog (track 1)
Record Label: White Knight Records
Country Of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 28th March 2019