Like a warm and comforting, dreamily sensual yet wildly exhilarating visit from some cherished old friends, famed, quirky, trippy and cool as all get out UK alt rock quartet Departure Lounge follows their first slate of live shows in 17 years in Brighton and London in 2019 with Transmeridian (Violette Records), their long awaited first full length album since 2002’s Too Late To Die Young.
Two decades may seem like a lifetime in pop music, but these brilliant visionaries – Tim Keegan (vocals, guitar), Jake Kyle (bass, trumpet), Chris Anderson (guitar, keyboards, sax) and Lindsay Jamieson (drums, keyboards) pick up where they left off, with dynamic emotional zig-zags from pin drop gentle, sometimes lightly grooving ambient piano instrumentals (“Harvest Mood,” “Paging Marco Polo”) to rollicking, full-bodied rockers (and showcases for Keegan’s haunting, soulful voice) like “Australia” and “Mr. Friendly.”
And speaking of “Mr. Friendly,” tucked in among the bluesy, hand-clapping gospel revival energy of the music are a few key lines at the get-go that capture the fierce commitment to the crazy but truly trademark Departure Lounge mood swinging that fans have been missing for so long: “Why’d you knock the wall out, honey?/I know the way you like to change things up/Walking down the warpath/Shaking a tin on the town.” At least half the tracks – most prominently, the brief and spacious opener “Antelope Winnebago Club,” “Frederic’s Ghost” and dreamscape of a closer “Flying Home” – recall their new agey all-instrumental 2001 masterwork Jetlag Dreams, whose 2016 clear vinyl reissue for Record Store Day paved the way for the reunion.
Other gems like the wistfully reflective acoustic ballad “Timber,” the hypnotic piano driven “Don’t Be Afraid” and the offbeat “Mercury in Retrograde” combine the best of both approaches, with Keegan’s subtle lead vocals further illuminating the lush ambient expressions. By reducing those to a subliminal whisper on the seductive aural wallpaper piece “Gurnard Pines,” he ensures that we pay attention, even if the lyric lines are a bit odd and disjointed.
In their liner notes, Departure Lounge thanks their families, friends and supporters for their patience and enthusiasm. That patience is more than rewarded with the sonically transformative Transmeridian.