Two years on from their youthfully nervy debut, Liverpool's Circa Waves are showing signs of an assured maturity on their sophomore album, 2017's confidently delivered Different Creatures. On 2015's aptly titled Young Chasers, Circa Waves lead singer/songwriter Kieran Shudall cooed and sneered his way through a wave of kinetic post-punk that seemed born as much out of teen angst and a boyish enthusiasm as his obvious love of influences like Arctic Monkeys and the Strokes. While still clearly carrying a torch for early-2000s neo-post-punk, Shudall and his Circa Waves bandmates are now road-hardened tour vets, indie rock prodigal sons returned home to reconnect with old mates over a pint, figure out how their relationships went so awry, and contextualize the insanity of the past few years. It's a vibe perhaps best expressed on the yearning "Without You," in which Shudall sings, "Finally getting some, thank god for home/So, shit food and sleeping pills/Cheap drinks and cheaper thrills/Oh pour me, pour me/And I and I, I will lead this parade/And I will travel for days to get to you." It's a catchy song, as are many on Different Creatures, reminiscent of their previous efforts but with an added layer of muscular guitar fuzz that brings to mind the bombastic '90s sludge of the Pixies crossed with the passionate alt-rock swoon of The Bends-era Radiohead. It's probably no coincidence that, prior to working with bands like the Killers and Interpol, Different Creatures producer Alan Moulder made his name working on albums by such alt-rock icons as Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins, and Nine Inch Nails. With Moulder at the helm, Circa Waves deliver a varied set of driving anthems that do recapture much of the convergent energy of the '90s Brit-pop and alt-rock scenes. Without overwhelming you with a sense of déjà vu, cuts like "Out on My Own," "Stuck," and "Goodbye" are massively hooky blasts of guitar rock that subtly draw cues from both older acts like Smashing Pumpkins and similarly inclined contemporary bands like the Killers and Kings of Leon. Elsewhere, Shudall showcases his stylistic range on the John Lennon-esque acoustic ballad "Love's Run Out," and leavens the Killers/Kings of Leon influence with some Lindsey Buckingham-ish, Fleetwood Mac-level pop grandeur on the uber-catchy standout "Fire That Burns." Part of what makes Circa Waves so compelling is that they are able to match the sound of their influences while still believably making the results sound their own. They've grown into an assured rock entity, but they've retained their fundamental sense of working-class Liverpudlian blues. As Shudall sings on "Old Friends," "I can't believe I'm still up/I can't believe this conversation is still going/I need to really grow up/I drank so much I can't see straight son/What am I doing?" Ultimately, with Different Creatures, Circa Waves sound like they know exactly what they are doing.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar