Since emerging a few years back, British outfit Who Killed Nancy Johnson? has earned a potent and growing reputation for their incendiary live shows and sound. It has been more than supported by a clutch of EPs along the way but with first album, I See Six, the quartet has truly exposed their stage intensity and venom in one gripping encounter.
Hailing from Reading, Who Killed Nancy Johnson? uncage a sound which is part punk/hardcore, part post punk, and part noise punk and all compelling as proven by last year’s EPs, The Reap Sessions, Sounds of the Suburbs, and Punish the Poor & Clown, alone. Inspirations range from the likes of Wire, Magazine, Gang of Four, and Killing Joke to Black Flag, Fugazi, the Adolescents, and Idles. Listening to I See Six, a fusion of Dead Kennedys, Amen and Girls In Synthesis feels like a strong hint to an individual sound which sets the quartet easily apart from most.
Instantly I See Six bursts upon the senses, opener Not Lizards a tempest of sound which soon unleashes its groove and rhythmic trespass to magnetic effect. As swiftly the voracious tones of Stefan Ball erupt with incisive intent and lyrical incitement. Across the release a loose theme of the distance between appearances and reality is exposed with its title “a deliberately off-centre reference to a scene in George Orwell’s 1984, in which Winston Smith is asked to count four fingers as five to prove his submission to the Party’s point of view.” Ball continues to accost and arouse thoughts in that direction, his trespass echoed in the blistering and thickly enjoyable sounds around him.
Immediately the following City scurries under the skin just as deeply, the guitar of Pete Moulton almost taunting ears before the track explodes in a deliciously nagging onslaught. With the senses shaking beats of Mark Wren driving the incursion and Dawid Bychowski’s bass adding darker threatening texture, the song is a sonic predator even when it relaxes around the accusing tones of the frontman for a momentary passage. Of course that soon boils up into another rampant and rousing uproar before spiralling away to be replaced by the track, Who Killed Nancy Johnson. Its dub brewed opening alone ensured keen attention and more so as Ball’s voice brings the drama of the tale to the open intimation at its heart and subsequent cacophony in the track’s striking presence.
Communist explodes on ears next, its clang concussive but wholly addictive as too its feral punk rock ‘n’ roll equipped with sharp hooks and intrusive riffs. Post punk and hardcore leanings are just as ripe as the band’s punk instincts in the gripping encounter and even more irresistible within the following We Breathe We Burn. The outstanding track instantly embraces the listener in drama and intensity, its organic infectiousness as feral as the raw sounds in its rich invention with that Amen reference earlier suggested is at its most inescapable within one of the release’s major moments.
For less than a minute Rothmans prowls the psyche, rhythms and vocals a noir drenched manipulation clouded in sonic viscera. Even though there is barely time to contemplate its presence, the track leaves another indelible mark on ears and pleasure before Under the Bell undertakes its far more epic adventure. Featuring the additional vocals of Moulton’ wife Sarah, his daughter Cadence incidentally providing the cover art for I See Six, the song weaves a captivating challenge as infectious as it proves to be sonically scorching. As lyrically rousing as its sound and eventful enterprise, the track grips from start to finish with a firm hand on favourite song if a decision constantly under review such the album’s potency.
The band surges at the listener through Six Fingers, the track a fusion of clamorous dexterity and melodic flaming while Trash is sonic corrosiveness which if not quite igniting the passions as others before it certainly had us lustfully bouncing with its vigour, passion and craft drenched rancour.
Completing the release, Notre Dame is a crawling beast of sound and intent seeded in political corruption of all sorts, its intensity culminating in a scalding sonic trespass which is just the offspring of skilfully tempestuous enterprise.
Though having been impressed and thickly pleasured by their previous offerings, I See Six is easily the richest and most essential moment with Who Killed Nancy Johnson? yet.
I See Six is out now on the band’s own DIY label No Nation Punk; available @ https://wknancyj.bandcamp.com/album/i-see-six
Pete RingMaster 06/08/2020