Providing a clutch of immersive anthems, though may be not in the recognisable sense, Accidents Happen the debut EP from UK indie/rock band Death and the Penguin is not only magnificent stands as one of the most startling and compellingly invigorating releases to hit the senses this year so far. Consisting of six tracks which are as bewitchingly eclectic and striking as they are voraciously imaginative and inciting, the EP is a mouthwatering persuasion which boldly tempts and riotously seduces with an invention and virulence that is unstoppable. For a debut it is extraordinary and for a first step by a band one of the most exciting entrances in a long time.
Taking their name from a satirical novel by Ukrainian Andrey Kurkov, the London quartet of Tobias Smith (vocals, guitar), Christopher Olsen (guitar, keyboard, vocals), Andrew Acred (bass, keyboard, vocals), and Timothy Brennik (drums, percussion, vocals) make a first impression which it is hard to imagine could have been any more potent and incisive then what it is. It is a release which starts off with a stirring proposition and just gets better and bigger with each track, all the while revealing the depths to the band’s songwriting, craft, and adventure whilst soaking it in a promise which more than suggests of even greater things to come.
Opener Snuffed Out instantly awakens thoughts and attention, a blaze of guitar which almost swarms over the senses igniting an instant appetite with its Echo and the Bunnymen toning to the melodic flames leaving the fingers of Olsen and Smith. There is a throaty resonance to the sound which becomes a specific essence of the band across the EP to relish as well as a sweet tasting discord which only accentuates the impact of first impressions. As the song spreads its narrative, a Radiohead like whisper chills the lively ambience as a cleaner and warmer but no less striking version of an At The Drive In like rapaciousness rallies a greedy appetite. It is the dark heavy voice of bass and the coring riffs which steal the thunder though, their continuing likeness to McCulloch and co. irresistible. Though more of a grower than other tracks, it continues to worm its way under the skin and into the psyche, proving to be a dramatic and impossibly infectious not forgetting momentous first slice of temptation.
The following Space 1998 casts a spatial embrace around ears initially, its warm and intriguing elegance asking the imagination to play which it eagerly does, especially with the heavily weighted thump of beats and guitar snarl which joins the beauteous lure. From that union a dazzling mathcore weave of bass and guitar steps forth to toy and quickstep with the senses, their bewildering quickstep and groove unbelievably magnetic. The vocals as in the first song impress from the lead to the eager backing whilst the fire and passion in the band leaves no element unwashed as evidenced by the simply mesmeric chorus. For undefined reasons there is a feel of latter period XTC to the song which only adds to the insatiable funk and jazz bred ingenuity of the stunning and constantly developing landscape.
The song marks a loftier pinnacle in the terrain of the release, elevating past its predecessor before next up An Opening unveils an atmospheric and haunting embrace over the senses. It is a brief and highly evocative piece which swaps the adrenaline fuelled romps of other songs for a melancholic intensity and though it does not inflame emotions as elsewhere the track certainly leads thoughts into a potent venture.
Strange Times has no problem in setting a fuse to a predatory hunger with its roaring entrance; guitars, drums, and keys making a melodic cacophony courted by the ever heavy breath of the bass whilst vocally the band soars with relish and energy. The entrance immediately sparks thoughts of Young Knives though as ever the song twists and lurches through ingenious detours and turns in its way to seducing the passions. Continuing to ebb and flow in its evocative intensity, the eruption of a fire bred guitar surge and the persistently provoking rhythms of Brennik scorch and bruise the senses respectively as the band sculpts another gloriously unpredictable and vigorously compelling exploit.
The persistently rising curve of brilliance to the EP shows no sign of levelling out as it and band step to another level with the closing pair of songs. The first is Bitumen, a track which brings the anthemic unity of the chain-gang into a blues kissed slab of pure invention. As primal and tribal as it is voraciously soulful the track is just brilliant, a sonic and rhythmic alchemy which seduces and smothers every pore of body, mind, and heart. An element of De Staat comes to mind with the agitated glory of the drums and percussion, but again the song is as unique and distinct to Death and the Penguin as you could expect and wish.
As the track closed it has to be admitted that we thought the release’s pinnacle was found but The Words That Maketh Murder soon shoves that thought aside. The song leaps at the ear with a wind of raucous vocals and grooved sonic groans, like a mix of Collisions and Hadouken it consumes the ears with a punkish recruitment which has a greedy attention basking in the subsequent flow of emotive vocals and imaginative intrigue. The switching gallop and canter of the chorus is sensationally incendiary, whilst the increasingly fertile landscape of the track with its swing and groove lilted swagger just concentrates the submissive toxins of the quite genius encounter. With another flood of infection cruising through a climax clad in a kaleidoscope of inventive colour and sonic mystique to end things on a plateau, Accidents Happen is simply incredible and already the instigator to suggestions that the Death and the Penguin is the next big and important thing within British rock music. Time will tell but we will not be betting against it.
Accidents Happen is released on May 5th through Best Before Records.
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