No matter how much we try to impose structure, life will forever remain chaotic. Mundanity might be the standard setting, but the pendulum is always susceptible to shifts, vaulting upwards or careering downwards. Family Selection Box’s Tom Diffenthal likens it to a “giant log flume” – “I was after a gentle fairground ride / I never wanted this giant slip and slide” he laments on ‘Trying to Forget What’s On Your Mind”.
Though Diffenthal’s inclination might be to shut out the highs and lows, he is too good of an anthropologist for that as you’ll discover on ‘Here Comes The Wave’ – a record that’ll make you as appreciative of life’s troughs as its peaks. Holding an umbrella aloft to the dank Sheffield sky, Diffenthal leads us on a trail from life’s simple joys – cheese sandwiches, Sunday mornings, Springsteen best ofs – to life’s simple tragedies – plant-less windows, scraps over a Tesco plastic bag, the house cat going missing.
“On The Bridge” captures this transition best. Initially Diffenthal clashes his chaffed vocals against gnarly, grunge-indebted guitars, before they give way to woozy synths, bandmate Lauren Dowling entering the frame with erudite vocals that have you picturing tan shag rugs and woodburning fires. Their soundscapes are hoppy, characterised by a near ever-present verve. The psychedelic keys and wistful guitars of ‘Super Market’ make for a stark contrast to Diffenthal’s despair at faceless supermarkets swallowing up childhood memories born on bowling greens, village parks – “They’re flattening out the past and constructing a supermarket”.
Diffenthal invites us for a drive in his Škoda Fabia on ‘Melancholic Car Journey’ parts I and II. Mirroring the title, the instrumentation is sombre and rueful, Diffenthal’s voice infusing calm and guidance unlike the recklessness it imbues on other tracks. Together these yarns break the wave in its tracks, their melancholy giving you one final reprieve before sweeping you up in the tide of adventure and folly once more.
An accompanying zine that comes with the record finds Diffenthal writing a letter to his house cat Peggy. Within it he tells her of Bingo Records, a label set on the top of Sheffield’s Spital Hill. According to Diffenthal, Bingo requires more than just a strong set of demos, they require ‘a display of extreme sporting talent’. Bingo challenge you to surf to the top of Spital Hill, promising to “etch the grooves one carves into the concrete waves of Spital Hill into a plastic playable disc if one can successfully surf all the way to the top”.
Album closer ‘Goodbye Wave’ marks the moment they reach the summit, Diffenthal and Dowling knocking their flag into the brawny concrete. This is not a road they’ve travelled alone though, a tailwind carries their listeners on to the peak with them. Having successfully overcome Bingo’s ‘Spital Hill Surfing Challenge’, they invite us to join in a communal singalong – “Good / goodbye wave / I’m glad that you came / the ride it was great”, we shout as the sun sets on the steel city below.