Absolute lunacy and total brilliance
Charlie Brock
12:39 9th January 2021

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LICE are Bristol’s hottest property and their long-awaited, full length debut is a staggeringly good concept album, touching on otherworldly themes.

WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear opens with a bang: 'Conveyor', the lead single, sets this tone with white-knuckle, ferocious post-punk grooves from the get-go. Thunderous drums and distorted guitar are a key theme throughout, making WASTELAND feel like an apt commentary on 2021 already. LICE seem to have written the perfect soundtrack to the ongoing apocalypse.

The track 'Espontáneo' pulls the record into a slightly different direction, with the lyrics taking centre stage. The instrumentation has a snakey grove whilst the satirical, science fiction story is laid out in front of us. The concept of the album follows a Mad-Max style protagonist known as ‘The Conveyor'; as they trawl the wasteland, we learn about the mysterious RDC and the eccentric Dr. Cohen. We’re also taught of the human race’s self-annihilation.

Sounds completely bizarre, right? But LICE pull it off with aplomb: the whole record is like a series of short stories set to ferocious post-punk. Musically, you can trace LICE’s influences from The Fall through to Dead Kennedys and up to Fat White Family and IDLES. 

The track 'Persuader' opens with an electronic sound; a drum machine with electric guitar accompaniments that's not a million miles from a Working Men’s Club track. It evolves into a more chilled, pensive moment on the album. The lyrical content is again superb as the story continues, reading more like prose than song lyrics.

LICE are able to keep taking you in different directions with the variety of styles on each track. The talent of the musicians is apparent throughout this album, but especially shines on tracks like single 'Arbiter', which is an ominous and raucously loud song. It’s followed by 'Serata', a slow burner which ends up an upbeat, danceable tune that encapsulates the absolute lunacy and total brilliance of this record.

The track 'Folla' introduces “the character of the crowd”, with a rumbling rhythm section and horror movie keys. The vocals are chanting and swirl around you, drawing you further into this mad world that LICE have created, the track ends in a repeated line, akin to “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”... 

The album finishes just as strong as it started with the track 'Clear', which creates an existential sense of dread with harmonies and slow, repetitive instrumentation before speeding up and up and up, like an insane carnival ride, culminating in a crescendo of math rock style guitar. 

This is without a doubt a fantastic record: LICE have pulled off something that is so wonderfully boundary-pushing and intriguingly avant garde. Perhaps the individual tracks wouldn't translate well into playlist-fodder, but as a whole album, this piece of work is incredible. 

What Ails Our People Is Clear is out now via Settled Law Records.

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Photo: Press