Menace Beach – Ratworld Album Review
Menace Beach have been much talked about stalwarts of the Leeds music scene for some time now, maintaining a consistently elevating buzz by just very quietly getting on with being really, really good. With core members Ryan Needham and Liza Violet supplementing themselves with a revolving door of fellow Leodian indie-rockers, most notably their frequent collaborator MJ of Hookworms who has mixed and recorded their records at his own Suburban Home Studio, the fact that they have emerged so fully formed and well-defined from the get go is testament to the vision of the two.
Rats as imagery have played a role in the band since their first 12″ EP Lowtalker, featuring in the cover art amidst swirls and sworls of lines of nothing alongside other warped and stunted creatures. The move from this handdrawn imagery to the scrapbook stylings of their Tennis Court/Lowtalkin’ AA single to Ratworld‘s own cover coupled with the increasing disfiguration of Liza’s face has a very disquieting effect looked at in sequence and is ultimately affecting the more you think about this slow transition, even if what it exactly means, if anything, is left unclear. Sometimes just getting you thinking or being merely evocative is enough.
Not so Menace Beach, who do not settle for such shallow conclusions, even while sporting their particular brand of nihilistic offhandishness. Different distinct melodies and vocal lines earworming into your subconscious based on what mood you’re in and what you’re more likely to pick up on, be it the joyous diving into negativity and abandonment in ‘Come On Give Up’, the droning beatless feedback-laden beauty of ‘Blue Eye’ or the nauseous guttural guitars of ‘Drop Outs’. Fucking everything off and ceasing to care rarely sounds so zenly fun or funly zen.
The album has a very effective flow to it, catharsis and occasional melancholy playing back and forth with each other. They switch with ease from sounding like they could just drop their instruments through sheer apathy to hitting them with vigour to what can only be described as recording the sound of the equipment dying. But perhaps the most interesting and wonderful element of all this is how it plays as an album designed to be listened to on vinyl, which is a thing of rare beauty these days. Both sides have a distinct flow; starting with a leisured stomp (‘Come On Give Up’/’Tennis Court’) building into an aggressive outburst (‘Lowtalkin’/’Ratworld’) giving way to melancholy (‘Blue Eye’/’Tastes Like Medicine’) and ending with dying church organ solipsistic shoegazing (‘Dig It Up’/’Fortune Teller’). Each side is two sides and two versions of the same coin, working as listens both in isolation and together. This masterful sequencing is, frankly, in this day and age too rare. As soon as I realised this, my love of this album reached full bloom.
Cleverly constructed without pretentiousness and distorted and psychedelic without losing an imminent pop sensibility, we have this early on what promises to be considered come December one of the great records of this year.
Ratworld is out today (January 19th 2015) on Memphis Industries and available in all good independent record stores. Their album launch at Leeds’ very own Jumbo Records kicks off tonight at 5.30pm. It is sure to be packed.