A genuine leap forward for the freshly expanded Cardiff quartet.
Adam Anonymous 2009
It’s an evocative image, Love on an Oil Rig. Mercifully neither as forced, desperate or potentially carnally unpleasant as that title could imply, the second Victorian English Gentlemens Club album is a genuine leap forward for the freshly expanded Cardiff quartet.
Much has changed chez VEG Club since their hit-and-miss eponymous 2006 debut: a swapped drummer here, an additional guitarist there, upping actual gentlemen content to two (although whatever you may have previously read, at the time of recording they were still a trio with original drummer Emma Daman).
The most striking difference, however, is a coalesced direction that significantly updates their ramshackle art school indie-rock template. Lo-fi charms remain, just bolstered by scuzzy grit and a guttural, muscled-up rhythm section, alive with the twin spirits of C86 and Nirvana at their discordant best, circa In Utero.
That fresh manifesto is apparent within exactly three seconds of the opening title track-slash-intro, sweet harmonies mugged by an impressively distorted squall, forceful percussion pummelling all in its path.
Admittedly, the album’s two singles to date that follow, Parrot and Watching the Burglars, suggest a false start of sorts. Disregarding the lurching bassline that propels the former song, amplifier abuse is limited to a minimum behind ricocheting boy/girl vocalisations.
The potency of striking dual female backing melodies soon becomes sparkling apparent on standout Bored in Belgium, though, driving the drama while frontman Adam Taylor rivals Pixies mouthpiece Frank Black for unsettling lyricism. Women Versus Children similarly bounces off a bed of sunny timbres that contrast sharply with Taylor darkly pitching ladies against kids.
Oilrigs aren’t the only blue-collar workplaces given romantic consideration meanwhile, Driver’s Companion referencing the sexual plight of long-distance hauliers with the sage observation that “Love on a lorry wasn’t free”.
It takes until God Save Us From Being So Damn Primitive for the full picture to unravel. Shattering an atmosphere of Radiohead at their most paranoid with a shameless handclap breakdown, it’s apparent that The Victorian English Gentlemens Club are at grudging odds with the modern musical world. Their souls yearn for a simpler time. The late 19th century era their moniker suggests? Maybe. Indie-rock’s mid-1990s heyday? Definitely.