Hello lovers. This week’s Listening Booth is bouncing all over the place as we kick things off with satanic doo-wop, dive into While She Sleeps’ latest and finish up with some pop-punk criminals. As usual, it’s a big old ramble with little relation to the real world, so grab yourself a seat and enjoy.
How about that for an album title? What it lacks in catchiness it makes up for in its informative nature, and how can you not instantly be intrigued by satanic doo-wop? That’s two things that don’t usually go together. I mean, I love a bit of Satan, big fan of music about the horny one. But doo-wop? I ain’t sure about that.
Because musical gimmicks are dodgy ground. We live in a world where Alestorm are still inflicting pirate metal on us while Nekrogoblikon do, well, whatever it is Nekrogoblikon do. For every Ghost who have taken an aesthetic and weaved it into their sound, we get two bands who shove a fucking goblin on the stage. So while there was no chance in hell I wasn’t going to listen to Twin Temple, I approached it with a certain degree of trepidation.
And fuck did my cynicism quickly evaporate because this is great. Ludicrous? Definitely, but all the more brilliant because of it. This is an album birthed in the early days of rock and roll. It is soulful and luxurious, leaning into its sexiness as Alexandra James’s voice draws you in and leaves you begging for more. In another world she’d be perched on top of a piano in an old black and white movie, introducing herself as the femme fatale the hero is most definitely going to get himself all in a muddle for. An idea she backs up on the conveniently named ‘La Femme Fatale’ as she declares ‘we’re all born with original sin, I choose to use mine on men’.
She wouldn’t have landed that role in old-school Hollywood, though, because there is also the satanic part and it’s not exactly hidden away. It’s not often you hear a song praising Satan’s smooching ability, but ‘Lucifer, My Love’ lets us know that he is better at it than Jesus. This album is deliciously evil, delighting in its subject matter as it draws on the dark arts in songs like ‘Sex Magick’ and ‘I Know How To Hex You’ before twisting musical tropes in ‘Let’s Hang Together’.
On top of that, it’s liberating and feminist as hell. I don’t know if this comparison will stand up, but a few years ago there was a fantastic film called Love Witch and the second I put this album on it leapt into my mind. There is an obvious connection as both explore and embrace the occult, but there’s also a strong vibe of reclaiming sexuality and empowering one’s self through it. While I am probably not the person to compare the two and delve further into those themes, I’d love to see someone more knowledgeable than me do so.
Sadly, while the words satanic doo-wop drew me in, I imagine they are going to push others away. There is a large part of the alternative world that is still inward and fucked-up (insanely heavy and talented bands like Ithaca and Svalbard still face sexist abuse), so something as openly sexual and powerful as this is going to send some of those pricks into fits of shock. However, Twin Temple feel like that one of those rare examples of a band with a ‘gimmick’ where it’s not actually a gimmick. There’s some magick in this album, don’t miss it.
If you want to find out more about Twin Temple may I recommend this interview with the always brilliant Kim Kelly: https://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/article/7xj4ee/twin-temples-satanic-doo-wop-is-feminist-as-fuck
Argh, I’ve been going back and forth all week about whether to write about this album. Where to begin? At the beginning of course.
In recent years, While She Sleeps have been one of my favourite bands. In a world where metalcore is so often just shit metal, they actually had a punk-leaning. On top of that, they released albums that despite being packed with huge pit starting anthems, were also smart and even challenging at times. I could safely say I liked everything they’ve ever released.
Which leads us to So What? and I’m sure you know where this is going. However, I’m not here to give it a kicking because it doesn’t deserve one. So What? is not an awful album. In many places, it’s a good one. I think ‘Inspire’ is massive and I love the cheerleader chant along on ‘Gates Of Paradise’. Loz still has some of the best mosh calls in the business, and there are enough songs here for me to deem this perfectly fine.
And that’s the problem. Fine? While She Sleeps aren’t a band that has produced fine in the past. They’re a band who have mainly done great, with a bit of the outstanding thrown in there and the occasional drop to good, but fine? Nah, there isn’t a lot of that. So, what’s changed?
Well, this is clearly their attempt to smash through to that next level. I’m stealing words from Brady of Conjurer fame here as on the latest Riot Act podcast he described this version of While She Sleeps as running almost parallel to Bring Me. Both are aiming for the mainstream, the only difference is that while BMTH are ditching the metal, WSS are clinging onto it.
That means that alongside those aforementioned mosh calls and the riffage you’d expect from one of their albums, we’ve got the dreaded electronics. I kid, there’s nothing wrong with introducing new ideas to your music, but it seems in 2019 the way you crack that Radio 1 bubble is by throwing some fancy beats into your music. It’s a direction that Sleeps flirted with on You Are We, but they’ve fully embraced it here. Right from the start of ‘Anti-Social’ with its catchy chorus and electronic flairs, it’s pretty clear where this is headed.
Let’s be clear, I don’t hate this. So What? is very clearly an album caught between two camps. It’s pushing one way while pulling the other and it ends up being unsuccessful (for me, it has got a lot of positive reviews) in both directions. I have enough love for this band that I’m going to keep trying with it, and I hope it clicks forcing me to retract these words. Right now, though, it is not working for me, and I’m left intrigued/a little bit anxious as to where they go from here.
Right, after two somewhat complex albums, who fancies a bit of romantic pop-punk about being a wrong’un?
Masked Intruder aren’t a band I’ve listened to before, but I have been aware of their blend of crime and music for a while. The basic premise is that, in many ways, these are your classic pop-punk songs about life, love and shagging, but all from the view of some hardened criminals. It means that on the traditional leave your boyfriend for me number, ‘Not Fair’, they aren’t just observing from afar, but from a tree outside their infatuation’s house where they’ve set-up camp for the night. As you do. Or, wait, should definitely not do. Don’t do that.
All of which is pretty funny and falls into the gimmick shenanigans I was talking about above. However, unlike Twin Temple, there isn’t much depth to this particular gimmick. After one or two listens the chuckles die away and you are left with the songs, so the question becomes whether those songs are good enough to be carried without the giggles of lyrics like ‘we can live wherever you want, no matter what it costs, you pick the spot and I’ll pick the lock’?
The answer is yes, yes they are. It might still be early March and raining (at least in Edinburgh), but Masked Intruder are begging to be listened to in the summer. It’s bright, simple and it makes me smile. Because underneath all the nonsense it has a load of heart and songs that will worm their way into your head and stay there. ‘B&E’ might be about breaking and entering, but it would work even better as the theme tune to a BBQ and some beers.
There is not much else to say, this is the simple album. One you can turn on and enjoy without having to worry about pesky things like thinking. Sometimes, that’s what you need.