If you were sixteen and wide-eyed in 2012, London was a good place to be. The Olympics painted the city with a warm and inclusive backdrop for fresh talent to pass through and do its bit. In the autumn, a new wave of dream pop-inspired kids with pastel-coloured pedals and oversized shirts started to sell out underground venues from Holloway to Elephant and Castle — and they were good at what they did. Bands like JAWS, Swim Deep and Childhood sandwiched themselves between two long eras of over-saturated whiny rock and then, for some reason, everybody suddenly packed up and went home.
RALPH TV has put out music for the last three years, but Cabin Fever Dreams is the definitive starting point. The band’s debut pulls together a tidy album around its previous singles, setting the tone with a thirty second intro of moody chord progressions in ‘Manuka’. A little bit of context goes a long way towards giving shape to an LP that can’t quite work out how it’s feeling: it’s three in the morning and you’re lying on somebody else’s living room floor. The room is spinning but you don’t seem to mind.
Instrumentals are kept pretty tight — a saving contrast to dreamy lyrics and production. That slight overemphasis on guitar throughout gives a crisp, delicate feel to the record, holding it together just enough not to slip over into shoegaze. The album itself progresses nicely, not really going anywhere but not really trying to. It’s a breath of fresh air from vapid indie rock and electronica that takes itself too seriously.
Ultimately, it’s a difficult one to pin down, though. Broadly speaking, the record fits quite neatly into the library of their Bordeaux-based record label, Nice Guys. But the boys from Brighton have done something different with Cabin Fever Dreams — much more than easy nostalgia, and not jumping onto the south-coast aesthetic too quickly, either. Funky overlays may guide Cabin Fever Dreams through to its natural conclusion in ‘Turning Out’, but you leave after thirty one minutes with a better feeling of what RALPH TV is to be on its own terms.
Eight years ago, one could look on with hope for a new age of groovy, well-considered indie music. Well, it may be a little late, but here it is.
Words by James Reynolds