One Real Big Identity Crisis, the new album from UK band The Permanent Smilers, is a release with no apparent direction or framework to its intent and enterprise; a release which basically lives up to its title but boy is it a slab of irresistible fun. Through thirteen songs, band and album take on a torrent of different styles and nostalgic flavours which really should not work alongside each other as coherently as they do, and all come with a humour and mischief which adds to rather than overrides the adventure of the individual characters. It is slightly deranged but not chaotic and thoroughly unpredictable yet not messy considering the vast sounds employed from song to song. Most of all though it is simply a compelling proposition which comes from left-field, keeps its heart there, and leaves the most enjoyable experience in its wake.
There is little we can tell you about the band itself, though The Permanent Smilers is fronted by Richard Lemongrower who was the songwriter behind Norwich band The Lemongrowers, a band releasing two albums on Noisebox at some point in time. Produced with Jonny Cole and mixed by David Pye, One Real Big Identity Crisis takes little time in lighting ears and imagination, though it opens with maybe its weakest song. That is a little misleading as it takes a song to get a handle, or try to, on the release anyway but certainly Identity Crisis did not really grip attention as much as elsewhere and left thoughts with a slight wondering of what have we got ourselves into. Strongly swung rhythms and similarly intensive riffs clasp ears within the first breath of the song, their bait a jabbing lure against the unpolished yet engaging tones of Richard. It is an easily flowing and energetic slice of rock ‘n’ roll with the bass of Jonny Cole pungent bait at the centre of the stomp. Truthfully there is little wrong with the song but it lacks a spark in its presence which evades the reaction it probably deserves and is easy to imagine being found with others.
The good if unsure start is soon a thing of the past as Uh-Oh takes over with its festive folk swagger and emerging carnival like devilment. Sporting a splash of Tankus The Henge to its relaxed but vibrant stroll, the song is a constant swing of melodic hips as it moves towards an unexpected and mouth-watering slip into a Dukes of Stratosphear like ethereal psychedelic charm and climate, returning back into festive mood soon after as if it had just emerged from a dip in the sea. The song is fascinating and bewitching, and just the first of numerous adventures into different landscapes, as shown next by the punk pop devilry of You Know Where To Go. Bred from seventies power pop and carrying a mix of The Flys and The Lurkers to its hookery, the song just hits the sweet spot with its insatiable energy and mischief, before making way for the more relaxed melodic embrace of Elastic. The keys and guitars of Richard weave another enthralling web of sound here, this time with a sniff of sixties pop to it which is punctuated by the crisp beats of drummer Pete Fraser and dark bass lures of Cole. By its close, the song somehow becomes a thumping anthem without losing any of its melodic and gentle elegance, a potent feat for any song to offer.
Both Just No Good and It Doesn’t Work Anymore keep album and ears bouncing with energy and pleasure, the first using a garage rock spicing again teased by a sixties almost Doors like toxicity, whilst the second again spawning from the same kind of seeding brings a rawer punk grouchiness with its presence. Each has feet and emotions joining their rigorous coaxing before Ghosts allows a breather for the body if not the imagination with its Simon and Garfunkel meets Burt Bacharach like embrace. The brass persuasion of Dave Land seductively flames over similarly captivating keys and vocal caresses through the song but as always there is a scent of devilment to the song with thoughts wondering at times if they should be enjoying this as much as they are. There is no escaping its thick charm though.
The next pair of songs brings a rich sense of XTC to their enterprise and persuasion, Rebel broadening that over time with a seventies kissed soar of progressive fuelled psyche rock whilst its successor, Voodoo has the stamp of Andy Partridge to its flirtatious pop and virulent enterprise. The pair leaves nostalgia glazed lips licked and, through the latter especially, ears basking in psyche pop of the most delicious kind complete with jazzy brass and funk spirited unpredictability.
You Know When To Go dives straight back into punk infused rock ‘n’ roll for its brief but sparkling instrumental before Unforseen manages to conjure an encounter which recalls the quirky indie pop of The Monochrome Set and the plainer but no less tasty essence of Tom Robinson. The song alternatively stomps and swirls around ears, every passing hook and melody it conjures an intriguing and quaint yet voracious tease before it moves off into the distance allowing the outstanding See Through You to make its lingering mark. Acoustically shaped with an avalanche of panzer gun delivered rhythms, the song initially is a smouldering and majestic sway of sound. It subsequently explodes though into a tempest of energy and revelry which only lifts a great song to a heady plateau. Imagine the volatile energy of De Staat at their most devilish with the epidemic hunger of eighties punk/power pop and you get a sense of the glorious treat.
One Real Big Identity Crisis closes with the acoustic lullaby of Sleepyhead, the album ending as it started with a track which does not catch the ardour triggered elsewhere but certainly graces ears with tantalising propositions. This album is one unexpected and seriously enjoyable adventure; not breaking down boundaries or venturing into the unknown but never providing a moment when you are not surprised or wrapped up in its refreshing simplicity woven by skill and invention. There is only time left to lick lips all over again as we close off and dive straight back into The Permanent Smilers’ irresistible arms, something we suggest you do too upon release.
One Real Big Identity Crisis is released in April via IRL Records with new single Identity Crisis out in March.
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