And stars come out to attend...
Theo Berry
15:00 27th September 2004

four stars

Big JoanIf this review of the debut from the Bristol rawk masters reads a little like a live review, its because their album has a live feel to it. There is no over production here; you can feel the scratch of the strings, while the percussion has an authentic sound to it. Like many a live show it is a little slow to get going as, despite the pithy breathy lyrics, opener 'Waiting For Nine' is little more than a standard piece of post-punk. However, when their trade mark squelchy bass and screaming guitars (they really scream – its not just imagery) fire up on second track 'Here to Help' the album starts to bloom like a dark mushroom cloud into something above the average.

The bass is distinctive; combining scratch and depth it simultaneous produces the sound of bodies falling onto thick mud and metal being scraped with stone. It’s nasty… but nice! 'Shutter', with it’s stuttering stops and starts, allows vocalist Annette to literally come to the fore, with rhythmic shouting in the gaps between the tangy riffs and the double snare fills that sound as if she is standing right behind the dust cover on your speaker.

But it is on the glorious 'Tiger' that they reach their peak. The bass barks, the drums snap, and a low growl is heard that one presumes must be guitar effects. Annette snarls, her voice distorted and full of threat (“blood on/ the pillow”), coming across clearly only on the chorus when the guitar kicks in. For the next six tracks they never descend from this lofty pinnacle of power and wrath. If anything they climb still further, proving they are more than just in your face, scrotum grappling noise merchants, with the melodic and almost easy-on-the-ear beginning to 'Ablenkunk' giving way to sweet soulful high lyrics, backed by bowed cello.

The menace, intent, squelch and scratch return on 'Tower'. Can they maintain such heights of perfection through to the end you wonder: “There’s a tower, in the middle of the plain, is it shaking? Is it shaking? Again and again and again.” But instead it appears that the prospect of descending is what scares them: “Out the way, I’m feeling dizzy, on the way down, to the level below.” So they go out with a bang, with deliciously dangerous guitar squeals beginning 'Fight Song' as they rush back into your face, pulling away momentarily to leave you “light headed” before pilling back in, bass, drums, lyrics and all. It leaves you reeling.