The Wave Pictures

Leave The Scene BehindInstant Coffee Baby
Tiny Craters In The SandIf You Leave It Alone
Cinnamon BabySusan Rode The Cyclone
Cut Them Down In The PassesLong Black Cars
The Burnt MatchBrushes With Happiness
Little SurpriseBeer In The Breakers
I Could Hear The Telephone
(3 Floors Above Me)
Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon
Panama HatBamboo Diner In The Rain
SugarLook Inside Your Heart
When The Purple Emperor
Spreads His Wings
When The Purple Emperor
Spreads His Wings

The Wave Pictures photo 1
The Wave Pictures (l-r): Dave Tattersall (guitar & vocals), Jonny Helm (drums), Franic Rozycki (bass) – Photo by Michael Rozycki



The Wave Pictures playlist


Contributor: Simon White

I don’t know why I decided to do the impossible. It’s madness, really. Ten songs for a band as prolific as The Wave Pictures (TWP). What was I thinking?

To help me whittle it down, I decided to stick to albums only. No EPs or singles. I made sure only to listen to what was available on their Bandcamp page, which helped reduce my choice. Yet, as a constraint it still wasn’t enough. I went to Spotify to create a playlist and discovered that several of my choices wouldn’t make the final list because they aren’t on that platform, so you’ll need to go and find Long Island, Remains and The Pharmacy Cross elsewhere.

Regardless, the moment I settle on ten songs it’s already wrong and there is a different set of ten I could have chosen. (That’s why I have seven – yes, SEVEN! – different playlists on the go.) The thing is, that will never change. It will always be the wrong ten.

Which is why, despite it being an impossible job, I’ve gone and done it.

No single fan of The Wave Pictures will agree with the list I’ve settled on, and I’m okay with that because I’m a fan of the band and I don’t agree with it either. Except I obviously do.

And right there is part of the charm of The Wave Pictures. This is an incredibly prolific band, sometimes writing and recording entire albums in a day. Yet the quality of their songs doesn’t dip. Each album is itself a heroic masterpiece wrung out of the minds and bodies of the three individuals who make up the band, which is why nailing ten songs from the hundreds available is such a difficult thing to do.


But list ten we must. So, let’s get to it.

First up is a song that appeared on a self-released album, The Hawaiian Open Mic Night, but was then re-recorded to open their ‘first’ album for the excellent Moshi Moshi label. That song is Leave The Scene Behind. I think the bluesy rawness is a good intro to TWP’s musical style, as it has all the hallmarks of the band: guitar played as if someone’s life depends on it, lyrics that demand some deconstructing but you can also just sing along to, a Franic Rozycki bassline that thunders along yet pays homage to early Violent Femmes, a David Tattersall guitar solo you can air-guitar to, and an abrupt ending because, let’s be honest, when a song is done it’s done. Yep, they don’t outstay their welcome on this.


While the album Instant Coffee Baby is one of my favourites, I’ve avoided adding the other nine songs to my top ten, tempting as it was. Instead, I look to another aspect of the band that makes them stand out: the lyrics of frontman, David Tattersall. On Tiny Craters In The Sand, he delivers some bonkers, yet also quite profound lyrics. He is adept at capturing the absurdity of life. I think this is probably somewhat of a quintessential TWP song. The rhythm, the tempo, the catchy melodies, all of these perfectly display what makes the band so brilliant. However, the attention to how each song is composed and the obvious talent each member has is what lifts The Wave Pictures above being a quirky indie folk-blues act. Yes, they appear scrappy and DIY, but that’s where the charm and personality is heaped on. It’s what keeps you listening closely. They manage to avoid being derivative while remaining staunchly themselves. What I mean is, there are no surprises yet they constantly surprise. Tiny Craters… is the epitome of that.

Surf rock isn’t something you might have had written down when you heard the first two tracks, and yet that’s what you get with Cinnamon Baby, taken from the album Susan Rode The Cyclone. Drummer Jonny Helm gets to show off his skills early on, before David goes all psychedelic on an extended guitar solo – something you wish continued longer than it actually does. The band pull it back into delicious indie-rock but have another huge jam for over a minute as they take us to the end of the track – they’re obviously enjoying themselves and as a listener you can’t help but feed off that vibe.


Okay. I think we all need to take a collective deep breath after that. We’ll need it to sing along to the beautifully observed song that is Cut Them Down In The Passes from the 2012 album, Long Black Cars. This is another album that it was hard to choose just one track from, as this is an album, like Instant Coffee Baby, that I come back to often. Yet, this is such a beautifully observed piece of drama in a song that lasts less than three minutes. The detail is astonishing. When I want to sing along loudly – like someone showering (or shaving) in their bathroom – this is the song I put on.

It’s not all toe-tapping, thigh-slapping pop songs, though. There is a darker and more introspective side to The Wave Pictures. I mentioned two songs from the album A Season In Hull, that I wasn’t able to find on Spotify so didn’t make the final ten, and the album Brushes With Happiness is in the same vein: minor key broody and marinated in the kind of melancholy you might associate with the late, great, David Berman. However, it’s not ‘bring-me-down’ tunes, it’s simply that TWP are made of humans, not machines, and have multiple sides of themselves to express. A song that really showcases a different side of the band is The Burnt Match. The marching band-style drumbeats, the slide guitar and the haunting vocals, all come together to show off that different side to their music. It’s fragile. It’s almost harrowing. But these tears I’m shedding are happy ones.


The band, Herman Düne, was the reason I first got into The Wave Pictures way back in the early 2000s, and Little Surprise always makes me think of that band and that time. Bright and sprightly guitar riffs and some brilliantly observed vignettes of life captured in the lyrics. There is a nod to calypso in the music, and it’s this sunny demeanour that just brings out a smile on the face. And if there was ever any question over the musical abilities of the band, this song puts those to rest.

Blues and rock is never far away when TWP are playing. It’s part of their DNA and they reference it throughout. However, on the album Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon they bring that bluesy rock sound to the fore, by collaborating with artist Billy Childish and using his guitars and gear to shift their sound into dirtier rock territory. Yet, it’s still that The Wave Pictures recipe of catchy melodies, virtuoso guitar breaks and well-observed lyrics. On I Could Hear The Telephone (3 Floors Above Me) you get it all in spades. Oh yes.


I’ve already written a lot about David’s lyrical abilities. One thing he does so well is his phrasing. These aren’t simple four-line rhyming verses, he knows how to use words and their cadence to brilliant effect. A master of verse, this is especially evident on Panama Hat, which is a rousing piece of song-crafting. And yet, the lyrical swerving that would make for impossible tongue twisters in anyone else’s mouth will make you marvel. And the humour that is another The Wave Pictures mainstay is switched on brighter here, further illuminating what it is that makes the band such a wonderful heady musical concoction.

And that humour and laughter is never far from the surface, as demonstrated on the entire album, Look Inside Your Heart, which was recorded in one late-night session after many, many drinks. Alcoholic ones. Yet, this isn’t raucous and loose, it’s as tight as anything they do sober. Sugar is my chosen example. It opens with chuckles and you get a sense that if they weren’t so accomplished at one take recordings they’d have burst out laughing several times. You can catch a snigger burbling like a brook just beneath the surface. It really gives the song something special that is often missing from the polished studio recordings of many artists. It’s like they’re saying, “This is fun! We want you to hear that we’re having fun!”

So, if blues, rock and pop are all there, with flourishes of calypso and acoustic melancholy, what are we missing? I think the nod to the sixties psychedelic scene. No song, for me, showcases this edge to The Wave Pictures than the title track of their latest album (at the time of writing), When The Purple Emperor Spreads His Wings. It reminds me of The Kinks, the audacity of Captain Beefheart at their best, and so many bands I grew up listening to from my parent’s record collection. And yet, it’s none of those and so much more. That’s the gift a song from The Wave Pictures gives. And it never stops giving.


There. I’m done. Already I know it’s the wrong ten to choose. As I let my playlists of possibles play on, I start to wonder if I should swap some songs out. And yet, it’s a perfect set of ten. And that’s because any ten songs from The Wave Pictures could be created for Toppermost. This just happens to be mine – for now, at least.





The Wave Pictures official website

The Wave Pictures Bandcamp

The Wave Pictures at Discogs

The Wave Pictures biography (Wikipedia)

Simon White started a small record label called Unspun Heroes in April 2023. It was created to highlight music that deserves wider attention and, where possible, to release it on vinyl – often for the first time ever. While not picky about genre, he wants to make sure what is released is done with a real love for the music. Pressings are limited to 500 copies max, with the second release, Golden Shoulders’ Friendship Is Deep released in August 2024. Find out more about Unspun Heroes and what they’re up to, and the music being shared, on their blog, on Instagram and PFKAT (the Platform Formerly Known As Twitter)..

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