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Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes: Blossom
Never let it be said that Frank Carter has forgotten his roots. The former frontman of hardcore revivalists, Gallows, raised some eyebrows in 2011 when he announced a new project with former The Hope Conspiracy guitarist, Jim Carroll, going by the name of Pure Love. The lighter garage rock style was a big change for the fanbase of a man who is known for his guttural screams and occasionally busting open his own forehead with a microphone. Suffice it to say, Carter's new act, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, are something of a welcome return to form and their debut album, Blossom, shows that the ginger dynamo has lost none of his mojo.
Kicking off the first song and lead single, 'Juggernaut', with a burst of guitar noise, Carter brings the fury immediately. With lines like, "I walk and die on the stage every night," this feels like something of an ode to his unpredictable and explosive stage presence (referring back to the aforementioned face self-flagellation). The breakdown in the middle of the track is timed to perfection, giving the song time to breathe and the tension time to build before a final chorus that shows Carter straining every vocal cord to its extreme. "Even on my own/You can't stop me". We certainly can't Mr. Carter and wouldn't even dream to.
After the opener, the fury is portioned out more sporadically with the two following tracks, 'Trouble' and 'Fangs' being a little lighter and more melodic. 'Trouble' is more Ty Segall than Suicidal Tendencies, with the garage rock side of Carter shining through and the verse sections of 'Fangs' not sounding out of place on a Wavves or FIDLAR record, having a vaguely surf rock vibe; but the choruses on what is probably the closest you're ever going to get to a hardcore punk love song (although it might be more prudent to call it a lust song, with lyrics like "But I can't help but want to feel/ Your teeth against my skin/ If you got fangs them sink'em in") bring that patented Fury™ back to the forefront.
Not every song is a winner though. 'Although Devil Inside' is by all means a competent hardcore tune, but finds itself falling into a bit of a lyrical cliché, not really being distractingly bad, but a bit of a disappointment after a very strong opening. However, the deep cut track, 'Loss' is a return to classic hardcore, sounding like a song that you would play over a 90s skate video, and that is high praise, believe you me.
Overall, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes' Blossom does what every artist dreams of their new project doing; transcending previous work while still staying true to the roots. That's not to say that there's no evolution in style. The force is tapered back a little bit, possibly from the influence of Pure Love or a maturation of Carter himself (in fact, the song 'Beautiful Death' appears to be Carter growing up and letting go of the past), and the melodies are a little bit more, well, melodic. If you were a fan of Gallows, by all means, give the album a listen because it is one of the better hardcore punk albums of the year. But buyer beware – if you found yourself disappointed by Pure Love, then this record may rub you the wrong way.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
Deerhunter’s sixth studio album, Monomania, is going to be an extremely challenging album for the band’s newer fans who were swept up in the ambient punk sound of their previous two releases: 2010’s Halcyon Digest and 2008’s double release Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Right off the bat, it is clear that Bradford Cox and company are declaring war on indie culture and the band’s associations with the ‘chillwave’ movement. It might seem a little hastily reactive, but for fans that have been following Deerhunter since their 2005 debut Turn It Up Faggot, Monomania is Deerhunter’s inevitable magnum opus. This is Deerhunter’s In Utero; a reminder to the public that they are a punk band at heart.
On Monomania, Cox’s increasingly conflicted relationship between his obsession with making music alone and his status as an iconic ‘indie hero’ is brought to the forefront – add to that his lifelong battle with Marfan’s syndrome of which he is now overly aware will soon kill him.
Though Deerhunter songs previously sounded more like a band effort, it appears that Cox is becoming the inevitable face and leader of the Deerhunter tribe as his personality and convictions are now at the forefront of Monomania where he wails and screams into your head through a low fidelity microphone on every track.
When Deerhunter debuted the title track off of the album on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in early April, internet blogs went ballistic as Cox sported a wig, dress and looked like his fingers were cut off while he wailed “IN MY HEAD THERE IS SOMETHING ROTTING DEAD!.. LET ME BE RELEASED FROM THIS! MONO MONOMANIA!!” incessantly, over and over again. This was the world’s introduction to ‘Connie Lungpin’; Cox’s reactionary, indie-hating alter ego.
In 2013, an album like Monomania and a figure like Lungpin are needed more than ever. As hipster/indie culture becomes this massive bubble of preconceptions, nothingness and indifference, Monomania is like a massive scalpel hacking away at the faint-hearted, seeing who will stick around when hipster blood is sprayed all over the walls of the ‘Indie Empire’.
Take the album’s second track, ‘Leather Jacket pt. II’ - the name itself is a tribute to rock & roll and punk. The solo of this song, blasted at full volume, is evidence enough that Deerhunter lives on a different plane entirely to the buttoned up C86 cassette sounding indie scene that has taken over in the past two years.
However, the album is not entirely inaccessible; the middle section features tracks such as ‘Dream Captain’, ‘Blue Agent’, ‘T.H.M’ and ‘Sleepwalking’, all of which should appeal to both new and old fans.
‘Blue Agent’ is a catchy but cunning and sardonic ballad that explores the idea of policing your own species, and ‘T.H.M’ is a fresh take on greenhouse gases where Cox celebrates – or tries to – how he is personally coughing and dying from asthma.
‘Dream Captain’ and ‘Sleepwalking’, two of the best songs on the album, are also in line with common themes on Monomania; the feelings of being letdown by your dreams, the death of the rockstar and rock & roll, as well as the conflicting dilemma and impulses that compel Cox to obsessively record and release hundreds upon hundreds of songs. Cox’s lyrics on Monomania are also generally far stronger and at the forefront, rather than buried in reverbed haze.
Monomania represents everything brilliant about rock & roll: from the proto days with Robert Johnson’s mythology, to 50s Doo Wop and milkshake rock & roll, to 70s punk; the iconic nature of vinyl, the beauty of storytelling and self expression in song, as well as an acute awareness that in 2013, the art of rock & roll is under serious threat of extinction. For those sick of the status quo, both mainstream and indie, Monomania is a diamond in a goat’s ass.