Largely colorless, Trevor Tanner’s Eaten by the Sea bounds along on a baseline of mediocrity, ranging closely between the moderately effective and the mildly crappy. Opener “Sirens” falls into the latter category, taking embarrassing echo effects and an MOR drumbeat and splashing them on an equally bland canvas. The title track works better by slowing down the tempo and draping itself in chilly synths, allowing Tanner’s bassy voice to float above the song rather than sink down into it. Songs like “Pretty Too” work well enough, with catchy melodies counterbalanced by Tanner’s British-inflected black humor, but are sabotaged by draining, unnecessary distractions—in this case a clunky guitar solo and some futile reverb effects. “Mal de Mer,” a jaunty organ instrumental, improves markedly as bursts of crowd noise and strange audio appear at the end. “Wake up Dead” is a mess, but its oscillating organ breaks, though familiar sounding, are a definite respite. This is not to say that Eaten by the Sea is a bad album. It is staunchly, wholeheartedly average. Any outstanding effect or quality is pulled back to the median by an equal and opposite reaction. The album follows 2004’s oversized Bullish, Bellyache and Belch, a triple album where competent songwriting was stretched to tedium. There, the failing was too many songs in one package; here, it’s a general watered-down feeling, with nothing exceptionally terrible or amazing to break the flow. Try as they might, these songs never stray far from that same middling boundary, moving back and forth across it like a leashed animal.
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