If you are curious to know how the LA-based quartet is handling its tricky second album you don’t even need to listen to it. The roll call of big names – Flood, Nigel Godrich, Chris Cunningham – whose fingerprints are all over the effort is pretty astonishing and you wouldn’t expect any one of them to back a dud, let alone all three. But give it a spin, and you’ll chuckle as it couldn’t start with a less auspicious beginning as a live-sounding jam is aborted midway as they get out of sync. It’s a beautiful and organic opener, revealing a wee bit about what makes the band tick – and whichever of the musical gods encouraged that decision is a wise man indeed.
For a band named after its military accessories, this false start naturally causes your critical faculties to be disarmed and reset. The misstep wasn’t intentional – but placing it straight out of the gates on the album’s introductory track is clever stuff. The only question that remains is how many more ‘mistakes’ are included in the self-titled album’s remaining 50 minutes? And by my reckoning, the answer is very few.
The main departure for their sound is the way the band dials in on Jenny Lee Lindberg’s deliriously potent basslines. She may only kick off one song, CC, out of the 13 but it’s the most unhinged of the lot, sounding like the spectral soundtrack of a zombie film with its accompanying barrage of layered, ethereal vocals. Elsewhere, the bass is pushed way to the front in the mix allowing Lindberg to handle melody lines, as well as to recede into the background and provide the booming propulsion. Just check out the stomper Disco // very with its tight as fuck dub-like groove as Lindberg completely monopolises the mix, leaving the vocals and the two other guitars to merely accent the tune, picking and stabbing around the edges. Despite its woeful name, the track is one of the album’s obvious high points.
The other magical element of the album is the drumwork from Stella Mozgawa – currently the band’s fifth drummer and certainly the best yet – as she is encouraged to play with a freeness that is exacerbated with the truly ‘live’ set up of the microphones and how they capture her playing during the recording process. Even her mentor of Josh Klinghoffer should be impressed as she packs a real snap into every beat – none more infectious than the upbeat groove of Feeling Alright, as she peppers her army of cymbals with a barrage of precision flicks, scrapes and rolls.
Apart from these examples of a superior class of musicianship and a growing maturity and confidence as a band, in many ways the foursome are still very much working within their trademark sound. Still heavily-influenced by The Cure, still cloaking a menacing power that is usually reserved for their live sets and still able to get away with loads of floaty, crystalline singing that is often more of a garnish than a main meal, the four women craft their most beguiling and listenable album of their careers. The companion piece will be served when they translate these songs to a live setting and it’s a safe bet the results will be incendiary.
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