It has been a long time since Flags’ name has come up in conversation. Having seen the band live several times in the past, most notably supporting …And So I Watch You From Afar and when headlining their first EP launch show with The Naturals, Flags were a band that were often in the local limelight. Thanks to their maturity and sensitivity to the material they created, coupled with the stellar musicianship and Rory’s deceptively lilting vocals the band garnered a healthy following. However, following the release of their eponymous EP the band seemed to dip below the radar. Now, almost three years since the band last released new material, ‘Oil and Sparks’ has been born.
Following a process that so many bands have entered into Flags set up shop in North Devon’s Woody Bay, living a life of seclusion for several months in a house by the sea and crafting what would become ‘Oil and Sparks’. The four-track EP, which was recorded at Squarehead Studios, brings with it the warmth and soul of the very house it was created in. There is a mystical quality to each song, as if each note reverberated through every exposed beam before filtering out of the speakers. During the fifteen minute runtime there is a familiarity, something so synonymous with Flags, but there is a new sense of self. Whilst their previous efforts have been cited to recall elements of Biffy Clyro and Bloc Party, ‘Oil and Sparks’ simply sounds like Flags. Rory’s vocals, whilst still retaining their identity strike new chords in the listener, his melodies staying with you for that much longer. The moments where the band drifts into their shoegaze roots sound more natural, an extension of the atmosphere rather than a shoehorned segway.
The whole experience is one that blurs into the subconscious, those four-tracks simply becoming one single piece that ends all to abruptly. There is a masterful sense that each song is simply building slowly into the next, testing the listener’s resolve for a final triumphant decree of noise, and there are moments where the band give us this resolution, most notably the soaring crescendo to the title track. Yet, as the last crackling embers of closing track ‘This Old House’ fizzle into nothingness, there is a slight void left in its wake. The song builds and builds but just falls short of greatness, there is something missing that simply left me hungry for more, but maybe that was the idea all along.
Stream a preview of ‘This Old House’ right here: