From the days when the devil thrust his evil designs into music, dark rock ‘n’ roll has been a persistent and endearing temptation. From the leather clad hip and vocal lures of Sweet Gene Vincent to the modern psychotic seductions of Dedwardians, it is a delicious trespass of ears and imagination that continues to evolve rich adventurous psyche twisting pastures. The likes of The Doors, The Cramps, The Birthday Party, Bone Orchard, The 69 Eyes, Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, The Dropper’s Neck to name a few, have continued to expose the senses to new ravenous depths of sinister sonic exploration over the decades. One band which from their emergence in 1982 has also sculpted a perpetual warped seduction is Inca Babies. Their almost serpentine invention and dark musical incitements have continued to inspire and invigorate, even during the near on twenty years they were absent from the music scene, but since returning in 2007 you can only suggest that the UK trio must have shaken hands on a new deal with Lucifer as they have risen to truly become one of the leading lights and template setting protagonists of British rock ‘n’ roll.
The evidence is already boldly apparent in their two albums since reforming, the acclaimed Death Message Blues and Deep Dark Blue of 2010 and 2012 respectively. Both releases ignited an already ravenous gothic rock scene and duly deserved all ardour given but each in many ways was just an immense but leading appetiser for the glory of The Stereo Plan. Released towards the end of 2014, the band’s seventh studio album is a masterpiece of the dark aural arts. The third instalment of their death blues trilogy, its fourteen-track proposal twists and turns through the primal essences of post punk, surf, garage punk, trash blues, and every other dark flavour available, but bred in the imagination of Inca Babies transforms into a recipe of ingenious alchemy. It is a transfixing and slightly menacing proposition which has everything from feet to the passions ablaze.
Listening to The Stereo Plan is almost like immersing in a greatest hits collection of songs, every encounter of such irresistible and impressive invention and contagion that there is no time to take a breath and reflect until the final note of the release drifts away. It all starts with the album’s title track and its opening tangy lure of surf bred toxicity. It is an instant inescapable invitation for ears and imagination, the percussive shuffle which soon adds its bait only increasing an enticement which deepens again with the thick bass prowls of Vince Hunt. Continuing to bind ears in his guitar’s delicious spicery too, Harry Stafford pounces with his vocal and lyrical dance, as everything in the song colludes to create satanic rock ‘n’ roll majesty, especially as rhythms grow in intensity and devilment with the vocals to arouse an even lustier persuasion.
How to follow such a magnificent start would have many bands in a cold sweat but not Inca Babies as they match its majesty with a just as compelling incitement going by the name of Scatter. The swinging beats of drummer Rob Haynes recruits eager attention right away, swiftly adding appetite as riffs and bass grooves unite with his anthemic beats and the incoming catchy vocal delivery. Into its stride the song expels a punk causticity around its driving rhythmic spine, the fingers of Stafford continuing to dance over the strings of his guitar to create a web of sonic addiction. The aforementioned Dewardians comes to mind as the song bounces with venomous mischief and also Eighteen Nightmares At the Lux with its scuzzy textures.
The salty smoulder of Damnation comes next, an Orson Family like countrified shimmer fuelling the temptation of guitar and rolling beats. As the opening pair of songs, psychobilly bred rapacity coats the song but also here a more garage punk tenacity emerges and grows to an even more potent persuasion in the following River To the Centre of the World. A haunting slice of upbeat balladry with a chorus which simply infests the senses, the track is dark poetic manna for ears and imagination. It also continues the mouth-watering diverse landscape of the album, each song a blossoming of individual and unique gothic theatre bred in sinistrous ideation.
The Cajun cast spell of Stand Down Lucifer keeps listener and album in lustful realms next, its sinuous shimmer and invention a creeping and inescapable seduction whilst Feast With Panthers strolls in with stalking rhythms and demonic hooks within again a fine and alluring vocal proposal. Like Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers meets The Screaming Blue Messiahs, the latter a band easy to offer varying degrees of comparison to across the album, the track swings it frame and flirtation with mischief in its eyes and a wicked lick on its melodic lips. The Stereo Plan began on a lofty pinnacle and this pair again sublimely ensures that there is no slip from such heady heights.
Last Flight Out of Saigon with its pulsating bassline and acidic sonic veining croons suggestively in ears next, its minimalistic yet cavernous presence a mesmeric hex before the garage pop feistiness of Absolute Leader of the World leaps at the senses. Holding a great raw seventies/eighties punk essence to its contagion, the song is a sweetly caustic roar of blues rock which re-ignites body and energies after the resourceful ‘rest’ found in its predecessor.
Returning to the insidious charms which festered wonderfully in the early songs, Devilfish Anarchy stalks and romps with that gothic blues meets psychobilly predation and devilry. Beats and basslines are the instigator to lust fuelled whiplash as vocals and melodic toxins work away on thoughts and emotion. It is an exhausting pleasure whose rigorous nature is swiftly tempered and contrasted by the funereal stance and classical elegance of Still Mountain, a bewitching ballad wrapped in imposing and provocative shadows.
A dirtier yet restrained heavy rock pushes the walls of Damn Our Hides next, its persuasion not as instant as elsewhere, though swiftly a captivating companion for ears, but slowly burning away behind the scenes and repeatedly nudging thoughts after the event, as so many other songs on the album. Its enduring temptation is another striking aspect of The Stereo Plan, each twist of its design able to return at leisure and with potency, just as the heated jazziness of Ghost Ship. The track is ablaze with sultry trumpet flames, filthy basslines, and delirious sonic enterprise combining for a fiery musical sunset on an apocalyptic landscape.
The album is finished off by the excellent psyche/ surf rock stomp of Blacktop Speedway and finally the garage rock serenade of Late Night Frankie Brittle, a croon which simply grows in weight, intensity, and sonic rabidity with volcanic imagination. The pair makes a thrilling end to one irresistible encounter.
Admittedly having a soft spot for the type of sounds Inca Babies revel in went in their favour, but also it brings more demands but once again the Manchester trio stand tall over them as they again help lead British rock ‘n’ roll into new and exciting explorations.
The Stereo Plan is available now via Black Lagoon Records
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