Four years ago contemplating and feasting on their introduction via the Accidents Happen EP, we readily declared it “one of the most exciting entrances in a long time”, further intimating that “Death and the Penguin is the next big and important thing within British rock music.” Even with the release of the Eine Kleine Granatenmusik EP two years later that emergence turning into national attention has seemingly stalled. You can sense though a busy band they are not ones to rush things or just release something unless it is exactly at its prime. That is why their highly anticipated debut album, Anomie has brought intrigue and fears. Extended time can diminish the potency of even the finest things but certainly not in the case of the imagination and sound of the UK outfit.
Described as “off-kilter alternative rock from London”, Death & The Penguin has a sound which teases but never accepts real tagging. At times it is avant-garde in its nature, in others experimental alternative/indie rock akin to a blend of Young Knives and Baddies. In other moments it blazes with an At The Drive In like dissonance yet as proven across the twelve compelling tracks of Anomie it is only unique to the quartet of Tobias Smith (vocals/guitar), Andy Acred (bass/vocals/keys/electronics), Chris Olsen (guitar/vocals/keys), and Phil Gadsden (drums).
The fascinating radiance of Hospital Song opens things up the song a wistful embrace of melancholy and haunting beauty shared by keys and voice within a more inharmonious breeze. It is a startling start to the release, bold and brave but undoubtedly magnetic as it leads to the waiting hands of The Calving Shuffle. Simply sensational, the track has ears and appetite on board immediately with its rhythmic shuffle, guitars weaving their suggestive threads in turn as the darker pulse of the bass groans while its political scything gives extra edge to vocals and its tone, as too more post punk hued sonic scrapes and the gang arousals.
A major highlight of the album, it is quickly rivalled by the angular twists of Kill Saatchi where warm melodies and enticing harmonies wrap its more untamed dynamics. Addressing the insidiousness of adverts and subservience to them, the track firmly nudges the imagination as it coaxes the body with its mercurial presence before Space 1998 has both rocking. One of two tracks taken from that first EP, and it has to be said both thoroughly welcomed and deserving of their place with the new offerings, the song is a spatial serenade with flirtation in its melodic web and tenacious energy in its spiral of craft and enterprise. Having a vocal hook-line which is just irresistible only adds to its majesty.
Colour In Me is next, its initial shimmer punctured by the rhythmic dexterity of Gadsden is coaxing of the richest order and soon backed by just as magnetic tendrils of guitar and Smith’s always gripping vocals. For all its virulent contagiousness volatility simmers in its depths, rising up with restraint from time to time to bring a great contrasting grittiness to the track while Misha Lives presents its magnetism through a slow but catchy stroll amidst electronic teasing and atmospheric drama. The song is a collage of flavours but all merged without clear definition into its post rock/electro/pop croon.
The folk gentleness of Driftwood (God Loves a Bird of Prey) has thoughts slipping away on its evocatively elegant breath, an acoustic flight brought back to earth by the ever addictive roar of Strange Times. The second from Accidents Happen, the song just grips from its first rapacious moment. With post hardcore hinting discord erupting across its melodic cacophony and those previously mentioned Young Knives essences colouring its character, the track continues to be manna to our ears.
Just as potent though is the truly manipulative Abyssinia. Rhythmically and harmonically it lured subservience to its suggestive heart and prowess within moments, tightening its persuasive hold by the second and each creative turn as at its core a wonderfully dark nagging bassline drives and stirs all of the adventure.
The final trio of tracks ensure the lofty heights of the album never the dip, the first of the trio, Leatherface, setting a peak of its own as sonic threat and rhythmic predation colludes with instinctive catchiness and lyrical trespass of emotive scars. Being suggested as a future single, the track is glorious epitomising the individual alchemy of the band’s songwriting, imagination, and adventurous sound.
Was It Kindness? takes on the challenge of following such a gem with its own untethered imagination where keys and voice tempt and taunt throughout as an inner crescendo bubbles up and eases, eventually bursting into a relatively calm pasture of enterprise and not the rousing romp expected; a deceit which works a treat leaving the evocative ballad of Bones to enjoyably conclude one thrilling release.
In some ways such the excellence of Accidents Happen, the quality and adventure within Anomie is not a surprise but everything about the album is bigger, bolder, and so much more irresistibly unpredictable…Another of the year’s truly essential explorations for us.
Anomie is out now and available @ https://datpmusic.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 15/08/2018
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