Lock up your mothers: Brighton’s scariest schlock-rockers are back…
They were the Punkas From The Black Lagoon: the green-haired, exploding-headed, mother-loving mutant comic book screamabillies lurching straight out of a ’50s drive-in fright night B-movie in a flame-licked monster car fuelled by the Green Goo From Planet Mental. Their gigs were like being abducted by the psycho aliens from Mars Attacks! and brutally anal-probed with old Tales Of The Unexpected annuals. They were the most pissed Buddhists ever to get thrown out of the NME Awards, the most fearless scalers of the nation’s monitor stacks and festival tent poles and a near-fatal shock to any grannies who tuned in to TOTP hoping to catch that nice Jamie Cullum. They were the Sting-punchingly brilliant The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and the instant they first howled “I wanna fuck your mother!!” Starsailor dropped dead from terminal irrelevance.
Pigeonholing TEMBD is as pointless as giving GLC an IQ test – they’re so far removed from all contemporary cultural markers, they need their own separate planet. But the significance of their Cramps-in-quicksand swampabilly riot is palpable: their 2002 debut album ‘Horse Of The Dog’ – a record both louder and more tuneful than war – was, alongside ‘Up The Bracket’ and the Coopers’ ‘See This Through And Leave’, the ignition that launched the current UK ‘guitarist’ space-walks of Franz Ferdinand and Razorlight. But explosions burn out quickly, and TEMBD in 2004 find themselves at risk of cultish marginalisation – chances are you currently have either a) their name tattooed across both nipples, b) nightmares in which they’re chasing you through a deserted slaughterhouse dressed as your mother or c) never heard of them – are they some kind of Channel 4 film season?
So, as a volcanic young rock band in need of a marketable identity, they ‘did a Thrills’ and relocated to their spiritual home. Their moniker refers to a mythical Wacky Race across the Mojave desert to the biggest rock gig on earth (the winner being whoever arrives last, um, obviously), so to Joshua Tree they went, accompanied by producer Chris Goss, who, as the cornerstone of Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age, knows a thing or two about menacing, dark-hooded desert rock.
But despite being fanfared with their catchiest and most turbo-charged single to date ( ‘I Could Be An Angle’), second album ‘Royal Society’ is way more John Wayne Gacy than Donald Campbell. Gothic in the Frankenstein’s monster sense, it’s full of deviant lusts, lurching psychosis and guitars like chainsaws revving in a basement. “I wanna fly like an eagle/I wanna sing like Sinatra/I got a date with destruction/I wanna love like a mother”, bellows Guy McKnight like a self-harming Elvis on opener ‘Rise Of The Eagles’, before snarling, “You’re asking why must it be this way/As we’re heading for our dying day/In a hole you’ll be lying dead”.
Elsewhere things turn ever more Norman Bates-shaped. “No love from my father because I’m a daughter/I feel uninvited but now I can’t leave”, goes the evil flamenco of (erk) ‘Drunk On The Blood’. ‘The Dancing Girls’ is ‘Gouge Away’-era Pixies playing ‘The Time Warp’, and ‘Puppy Dog Snails’ is pure pantomime wickedness – a witch growls “What do we do with a boy like you?/We put them in a pot and we throw them on the fire!” Fly, my pretties, FLYYYYY!!!
Of course, we’d be handing our TEMBD files over to Scotland Yard if the whole thing weren’t so damn tuneful. From the inspired chaos of ‘Horse Of The Dog’, Ver Matchbox have here dredged an utterly unique Black Francis-cum-Mortiis melodic nous that makes ‘Royal Society’ something akin to ‘Songs For The Deaf’ rewritten by the Brothers Grimm with Hannibal Lecter on ‘vibes’: a demented, disjointed, delicious-as-human-rump-steak modern classic.
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