Even with the familiar uniqueness that comes with the Mr. Strange sound each album from the Isle Of Wight band has sought to explore new flavours and a fresh creative character and successfully so to date. That eclectic adventure and imagination was shown in its glory in the band’s 2019 best of album, WTF. Now the UK outfit has their sixth full-length poised to provoke the imagination, evoke the body, and interrupt complacent thoughts; an intent which Contact succeeds in with almost effortless ease.
The brainchild of vocalist/songwriter/keyboardist Mr. (Saul) Strange, the band has not only released some of the most striking and contagious releases over the past decade or two but become one insatiably devoured live proposition. Completed by bassist/guitarist Ant Strange, and drummer Damian Strange, it is this live side which is at the heart of Contact, Mr. Strange wanting to bring its spirit to the album as, in their own words, they wanted to “make a record that actually sounded like a band, rather than a producer with a laptop.” Listening to the album it is clear across its multi-flavoured adventure that the intent found success though organically or instinctively the trademark electronic prowess and theatrical production touch of their fertile imagination still found an eager place. The combination works a treat as from maybe the expected industrial/electro rock which fuelled their previous acclaimed releases the band has launched its uniqueness across a fresh and rich tapestry of new eclectic styles.
The album opens with Alien and the introduction to the arrival of a visitor to this complicated planet but as across the album it is a premise which can be just as firmly translated to any misfit, freak, emotional extra-terrestrial feeling out of place in this world. It is a secretive emergence, a calm glide into view which breaks into a rhythmic stroll before an inimitable Mr. Strange like carousel lit saunter takes over. The narrative of the vocals is soon as magnetic as the sounds lighting its observation, the unsurprising catchiness of the band’s swinging electro meets psych rock incitement infesting ears and body alike.
It is an irresistible start to the release which the album’s following title track taps into just as eagerly. A cinematic sample triggers a sizzling groove across a manipulative surge of rhythms, the song proceeding to grow its web of tempting laced with funk, surf, and glam rock spiced threads, the track a quickly and increasingly contagious affair with keys dancing on the electric wiring and around rousing vocals to escalate the addiction.
Jungle intimating rhythms open up Animals next, tribal and primal instincts escorting our infestation of the natural world as a fusion of King Trigger, Thompson Twins, and Talking Heads essences unite to glorious, enthralling effect though the song is soon eclipsed by the feral rock ‘n’ roll of Piggy. Punk, electro, noise rock all collide in its attitude exhorting roar, the track as predatory as it is seductive within a galvanic roar of sound and voice.
The enthralling Play the Game is next up, another track which almost stalks ears and attention. Its twisted psyche and fuzzy breath is lit up by Mr. Strange’s vocal prowess and a surrounding harmonic elegance, dark and light colluding in the embrace of shadow wrapped self-reflection while Rumours steps in with an Oingo Boingo crossed with Marilyn Manson swing which breeds an only richer and broader tapestry of flavours and enterprise. Both tracks were under the skin in no time, their unpredictability as potent as their eclectic weave of sounds though again two great tracks found themselves outdone by a third as Paralysed stomped in with bold tenacious beats and rapacious riffs while a ragtime nurtured piano teases. It proved intoxication as thick as the call at the heart of its lyrical declaration, the album continuing to hit pinnacle after pinnacle.
The Pursuit of Something Better emerges next as sinister as it is irresistible; guitar and synth joining together in pure temptation as vocals add their similarly potent coaxing. With a breath akin to something like Wall Of Voodoo meeting Gary Numan in the shadow of Skinny Puppy, it is haunting arousal which also applies to its successor Southbound for different reasons. A slice of classic meets desert rock with a Queens of the Stone Age instinct, the track is a heavily stepping, creative limb swinging incitement again impossible not to boisterously participate in.
Both To The Center and Finale make for captivating proposals, the first a melancholy scented dark psychedelia lit croon which becomes more robust and fiery by the minute; its subsequent gripping declaration imposing and dramatic while its successor offers a tantalising and sublimely alluring ballad as crystalline as it is again melancholy coloured, and unapologetically infectious.
Contact concludes with Hello! (Epilogue), a grinning piece of creative kindling with a great ICP meets 12 Stone Toddler mischievousness to it that as, its predecessors, had the body swaying and appetite licking greedy lips.
As most of their albums, Mr. Strange had us hooked from the off with Contact only seeing us more hungrily dancing to its tune thereon in but it is a whole new beast from the band and even with those references to give you a clue is as unique as anything you are going to find out there, as contagious, and quite likely as irresistible.
Contact is released February 14th with pre-ordering available now @ https://mrstrange.bandcamp.com/album/contact
Pete RingMaster 06/02/2020
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