Goon Island is intense, intriguing, scary, unrelenting, demanding and exhausting.
Michael Quinn 2008-07-25
Musically, think Pigbag in amphetamine-driven freefall, The Prodigy in playful abandon, The B52's in a decidedly less sun-kissed frame of mind. Lyrically, think The Kinks, The Fall and David Byrne. For once, Southend Art School has delivered.
XX Teen's debut long-player announces the uncategorisable five-piece to a wider world and the wider world to the metaphor-laced Goon Island, with performances that rip up the space between your ears with orgiastic excess. Which is good.
The disaffection quotient is high here, the silvery, silky double-tracked harp glissandi that gets proceedings underway swept aside by the pulsing, pining, poignant The Way We Were. Sounding like a nightmarish out-take from the Stone’s Beggars' Banquet, B54 thrusts producer, mixer and engineer Ross Orton's phenomenal drumming – a more subtle but no less accelerated Lightning Bolt analogue – into the foreground and leaves it there for much of the rest of the 11-track album.
The swirling absinthe delirium of Onkawara plays around with hip hop, death disco and Manga mania in a vain attempt to disguise its forlorn love song credentials. My Favourite Hat adds an angsty touch of Iggy Pop and second Summer of Love synths to Mark E Smith vocals with likeably scant regard for not so much crossing boundaries as ploughing gleefully into and through them.
The magnificently messy, brass-drenched, rough round the edges single Darlin' serves as something of a manifesto – ''Down assed dirty old style/We've got to unify, unify!'' – before the sitar-laced, psychedelia-tinged Sun Comes Up offers a Talking Heads-like hymnal to freedom. Album closer, For Brian Haw (the Parliament Square peace protester, who recites a poem as an interesting coda) flares and ignites with apoplectic indignation fuelled by a furious and fierce passion.
Goon Island is intense, intriguing, scary, unrelenting, demanding and exhausting. However you do it, get yourself there as soon as you can. The Canary Islands it ain't!