Instagram Soundcloud Spotify

We’re In The Wild Waters Now–The Waterboys’ This Is The Sea

Written by:

It’s weird to think that The Waterboys put a record out in 1993 called Dream Harder.

I only say that because for ten years leading up to that record, nobody seemed to dream harder than Mike Scott and The Waterboys. That Scott would urge himself to dream harder than he had already been almost seems impossible—he had already asserted himself as one of the most ambitious musicians of all time, his work redolent with conviction, aspiration and truth.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. That was 1993.

We’re here to talk about 1985.

And This Is The Sea.

“That was the river/This is the sea,” Scott sings on the album’s title track, and that line may very well embody exactly where his head was in 1985—it was in the surf of the big swim, in the dark thunder of the rolling waves.

In other words, what came before was contained, but on This Is The Sea, we’re in the wild waters now.

And we truly are.

This Is The Sea is a sweeping and majestic effort that skyrockets with splendor and rings with ecstatic jubilation. It also mines the darkness of the human heart and stares down the wickedness of its hidden avenues.

It’s heavy stuff. But well worth both the weight and the light.

“The Whole Of The Moon” is a Rousseau-ian battle march that finds Scott declaring, “I wandered out in the world for years/While you just stayed in your room.”  In the hands of someone else (Hint: He has one name and he hails from Ireland) that line would ring with pomposity and pedantic condescension, but Scott means it as more of an invitation than an indictment. Not only is it an exuberant call to arms—a summoning for those in the shallow waters to come travel in the deep—it’s pure pop joy, replete with fiddles and violins and a rootsy stomp that’s impossible to resist. Maybe the sonic ejaculation behind the line, “You came like a comet” is a bit much, but it’s so devoid of irony or invention, it’s hard to take it personally.



“Spirit” which is surprisingly spare for a band that was so delightfully busy with horns and strings, sounds like a man simply (and complexly) grappling with being a man and the spiritual wrestling is both intensely private and intimately public. It not only brings to mind St. Augustine’s Confessions, it’s a great example of Mike Scott’s willingness to be fearless and vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the searing “Old England” borrows from Joyce and Yeats to take an open stab at Thatcherism; the fiery post-punk of “Medicine Bow” is nothing short of rousing and “The Pan Within” is a cathartic dose of spiritualism that suggests, “All we gotta do is surrender.”

And of course it all closes with “This Is The Sea,” which is a monstrous number that ranks not only as one of the best album closers of all time—Scott sure knew how to open and close a record—it’s one of the greatest songs of Scott’s triumphant career.

It’s acoustic Celtic soul.

It’s a wailing meditation.

It’s music at its most graceful, grand and true.