Part devious, part psychotic, and all compelling, La Petite Mort is an album which revels in uncompromising and distraught rock ‘n’ roll. It is an encounter which sits easily alongside recent gems from imaginative UK protagonists like Mojo Fury, The Dropper’s Neck, and Japanese Fighting Fish, from a band crafting and inciting for over a decade garnering a sizeable reputation. Oxford quartet Smilex now look ready to stand alongside the greats of the UK scene with their new album under their thrilling creative wing. It is a mouthwatering adventure, one which is wonderfully unpredictable and occasionally meandering in its success but most of all it is a masterful persuasion which makes the world great and urges the mind to explore its insanity.
La Petite Mort follows several well-received and acclaimed releases on, like the new album, Quickfix Recordings, as well as compilations, a collaboration with MC Lars, and a split release with the mighty Young Knives. Equally renowned for their live performances which has seen the band share stages with the likes of The Damned, The Datsuns, and The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, the latter you suspect an inspiration on the band going by the new album, Smilex has enslaved their locale and surrounding areas with their gripping sound. Now with the weightily flavoured La Petite Mort you can sense that the rest of the country and further afield are about to fall before them too.
Mixed by numerous contributors including Ace of Skunk Anansie with whom the band has worked before, the album from its first moment is immersing ears and imagination in an ever evolving and twisting array of styles and maniacal enterprise for a blisteringly potent and striking adventure. To be honest its start bred reservations before ardour, 9hz not making the dramatic impact certainly initially as expected though it wins its case ultimately. A single guitar teasing starts things off and is soon joined by the great earthy voice of the bass and keenly unpredictable rhythms. It is a gentle coaxing which invites attention, especially with the addition of the expressive delivery of Lee Christian. It is not a dramatic entrance to grip the imagination though it is fair to say that the bass skills of Jen Acton (replaced in the band since the album by Olivia Luce) seduce and floating restrained harmonies bewitch. Into its narrative with the guitar of Tom Sharp and his supporting vocals bringing extra spice, the song has an air of The Eagles to its emotive breath whilst simultaneously a brewing weight of shadows and intensity grows and intimidates as a fiery raw surface for the senses to be wrapped in emerges. It is an engagingly and impressively designed proposition but one which fails to find that spark to greatness.
That trigger is found and pulled with both Deadman’s Dirge and Wasted Youth, the pair instantly adding new character and anthemic urgency to the release. The first explodes with a punk tenacity and hunger as well as power pop meets noise rock vivacity. It is a delicious slice of psyche twisting ingenuity, the vocals ensuring the ride is testing and enthralling whilst the rhythmic skills of Pat Holmberg again thoroughly impress. As it caustically seduces there is a feel of The St Pierre Snake Invasion to the brawl as well as a sniff of Melvins to its intrusive imagination, a mix which ignites anticipation for its successor. The second of the two like the first, saunters in on a gentle breeze shaped by guitar and rhythms around the slight angst kissed vocals. Young Knives comes to mind swiftly, though to be fair as it flares and erupts, the song soon has something unique to offer. It is a raw and acidically sultry persuasion which though not quite matching its predecessor sets another appetite provoking flirtation in motion.
Revive The Revival similarly has a abrasing edge to its melodic dance and enticing body, but also a thrilling invention which means ears and emotions are treated to fondling melodies, noise bred rapaciousness, and a rhythmic examination which leaves senses exhausted and blissful. As deceitfully contagious as it is menacingly disarming, the track is a glorious tempest of primal rock ‘n roll to set the passions ablaze once again.
The following What Is It You Actually Do Again?! enters on a reflective emotive caress of guitar accompanied by bas and rhythms and vocals, a start the band seem to like almost too much as it does offer a little predictability. To counter that though the elegant starts are more often than not followed, as here by varied and incendiary sonic hues and enthralling drum manipulations as sparking spears of sound and invention also escape into and from the very decent start. The track itself twists and turns like a Eastern dancer, sinews and rippling melodic flesh enslaving the imagination.
The carnivalesque mystique of La Valse Macabre makes another entrancing canvas upon which the imagination in its painting joins up with guitars and vocals, a wealth of rhythmic and harmonious hints adding their distinctive colours along the way. Merging a folkish indie essence with raw rock and metallic hunger, the track is a dark landscape which seduces with persistently shifting voracity, in many ways preparing the way for the outstanding Evil. With robust intensive rhythmic work from the excellent Holmberg and carnivorous stabs and riffs from Sharp, the track is instantly riding the passions with its metal spawned rock ‘n’ roll. It is a predator of a song but one determined to have fun as it explores a blues rock and melodic metal scenery to keep things unpredictable and rigorously captivating. It is a beast of a suasion, almost toying with the listener as it seamless merges metal and stoner-esque predation for an exceptional creative ferocity.
The lofty heights continue with the haunting atmosphere and melodies of Manatee, a mermaid of a song which lures and seduces with siren like beauty but equally is cloaked in shadows and heavy emotions to endanger and threaten. It is a masterful aural portrait inspiring thoughts and feelings whilst providing an intensely smouldering landscape to bask within and escape into. From vocals to bass, guitars to drums, the track steals the listener away, examining and inciting with every note and syllable.
The release is completed by the terrific garage punk stomp of Please Do Not Feed The Drug Child, a brilliant bruise of punk infused rock which is virulently infectious, and One Woman Man. The final song provides stretches of nagging rhythms and niggling riffs around emotive vocals and reflective melodies with further inventive passages of reserve and rabidity. It is a track which takes longer to win over thoughts but given time emerges as a wonderful creative tango furthering the potential and weight of the songwriting and its realisation. The track makes a fine end to an outstanding album, one which even with moments which do not quite meet personal requirements more often than not has those same wants overfed and even greedier. Smilex is the future of British rock ‘n’ roll in tandem with a wealth of other psyche reshaping bands, are you ready?
La Petite Mort is available digitally and physically via Quickfix Recordings now @ www.smilex.co.uk
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