Week 66

cover

The Aphrodisiacs

'This is a Campaign' album

S L records

 

The Aphrodisiacs label themselves as a ‘three piece, crazy experimental band fae Motherwell’ and as such sell themselves a little short. They claim to owe the roots of their first album (This is a Campaign) to the technological finesse of a palmtop digital studio and ‘Super Mario Racing’, again, this doesn’t really do their debut justice. Significant steps have obviously been taken throughout the process of conceiving, arranging and recording this record, because the results suggest more than a bunch off kids playing with circuit boards in their bedrooms.

Formed ‘sometime in 2002’, and already veterans of two Peel Sessions and a festive fifty entry The Aphrodisiacs are slowly but surely gathering a reputation for penning intelligent songs, heavily laden with understated electronic assistance and gently moulded around occasional but insistent guitars; the resultant sound is not a million miles away from early New Order/late Joy Division, there is an element of The Fall and a definite sense of Pulp, only without the Yorkshire accent. That whole rudimentary electronic music movement from the early ‘80’s is an obvious, if lazy, reference point, and the inclusion of guitars suggests the dreaded term ‘crossover’. Maybe it’s not ‘crossover’ though, maybe it’s a genre all of its own?

Album opener ‘The Tomorrow People’ reinforces the New Order influence from the outset, with it’s ‘Blue Monday’-ish opening, regimental, pulsating beat overlain by swirling synthesiser swoops before inserting the softly spoken lyrics. It’s almost a clash between the brutal, rudimentary beats and the thoughtful words, one relies on it’s intensity and in-your-face rhythmic strength for it’s presence, the other hopes that you will listen close enough to appreciate that the vocal track is not simply idly sung noises adding another ‘instrument’ to the soundtrack. In the end it’s probably a draw, the music is infectious and drags you along with ease, the lyrics vital, hushed and incisive.

‘Against The Grain’ is more of the same, sensitive vocal lines fighting with high grade bleeps and rough hewn guitars, whilst title track ‘This is a Campaign’ is a more delicate offering. This isn’t to say it is at all delicate, just not as raucous, it is an up-tempo, pulsating, rhythmic, sonic stream of effervescing studio manipulation. It’s cleaner than the previous tracks; it’s calmer, yet still uplifting.

‘If You Want Me’ hints at a darker side to The Aphrodisiacs, certainly lyrically, if not musically, whilst ‘The Hour is Late so Please Consider’ – star of the recent Peel Session – swings directly back towards uplifting. The lyrics steadily dragging something positive out of the bad times...

“Hey there, I would like to take this time to remind you, don’t fold, don’t fade...”

It’s a tale of lost love, rejection, and realisation that things are not going to measure up to your dreams, but through all the dejection and heart break there is an indelible understanding that you have not only learned a lot from what has gone before, but that life can only get better with your new found knowledge, and for that there is a debt of gratitude.

‘Ghost in the Shell’ is a rocking dance beat that would have had the Thursday night Hacienda crowd hands aloft and wide eyed with ecstatic bliss back in 1989.

The Aphrodisiacs could be dragged into the whole post-baggy, dance-rock crossover genre, but they are so much more than that. If they had been turning out these tunes at the end of the 1980’s or the early ‘90’s they would have been championed in the music press, eulogised on daytime radio, and solid ever-presents on the club scene. Time however is something that we have no control over, and the passing of such may mean that Motherwell’s finest have missed a perfect opportunity for an easy ride to pop stardom. Fortunately enough though there is still a great demand for music that both allows you to listen to intelligently crafted lyrics yet still exercise your favourite dance moves at the Saturday night disco, and The Aphrodisiacs fill that gap in the market perfectly. A round peg for a round hole. All those ‘crossover’ bands that came before, a decade ago are left standing on the sidelines by this record. The Northside’s, the 808 States, the Flowered Up’s of the past simply fade into insignificance as soon as ‘This is a Campaign’ slides effortlessly into the cd player.

Closing the album is the crescendo of ’15 Pillars of Despair’, it builds slowly from a dangerous, edgy acoustic beginning to a deafening roar of intense beats and filthy, overwrought guitar, leaving you wavering on the edge of the precipice, delicately poised between safety on the pop plateau, and the gaping chasm of big, dirty, noisy rocky dance music. And like anything hidden, or forbidden, the attraction is just too great to resist, and like me, you will undoubtedly find yourself hurling yourself headlong into the noise.

It’s totally irresistible.

 

Johnny Mac
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