Coconut’s acid-fried eclecticism lacks the brutish vigour of its predecessor.
Alex Denney 2010-03-01
Imagine a metaphor in which toothpaste is equated with cultural relevance. The tube, emblazoned with the legend ‘blues-derived rock music’, has been scrunched ‘til it’s haemorrhaged at the sides, a thick crust obscuring the nozzle. More than 40 years after The Velvet Underground instigated $10 fines for members suspected of playing blues licks during rehearsal, the genre’s pop-cultural legacy seems to be terminally on the wane. But if London freak-beat combo Archie Bronson Outfit achieved anything with their diabolically good second album Derdang Derdang, it was to eke out one last, cleansing slug from the tube.
The trio cut a lukewarm 2004 debut, Fur, on which a certain carnal flair in the playing struggled to overcome the essential hoariness of their R&B template. Derdang Derdang followed two years later and changed all that, the band attacking its best material to date with broad, tearing strokes. It was big, brash and ugly; a thrilling volley of psychosexual depth charges as much influenced by Beefheart and Surrealism as the more familiar strands of the post-blues canon.
Four long years have passed, and Coconut arrives with whispers of a troubled back-story – what, then, have our protagonists been up to in this literally Olympian time span? And what are these rather stern-looking bearded gents doing making an album with DFA mogul Tim Goldsworthy as producer? Truth is, Coconut does such a convincing job persuading you that ABO has moved on as a band, it winds up labouring under a diminished sense of identity.
Tracks like You Have a Right… and opener Magnetic Warrior spit darkly chemical grooves that eschew the visceral punch of oldies in favour of a solipsistic streak that’d do Wooden Shjips proud. The latter introduces frontman Sam Windett’s remodelled vocal style; a heavily-distorted, metallic gurgle that replaces the panicky yelp of earlier output. Dark psychedelia abounds on Coconut, bringing to mind everyone from Faust and Clinic to the band’s own little-heard side-project The Pyramids.
Goldsworthy’s presence is justified by a host of strangely funky tracks like Shark’s Tooth – imagine the Gossip backed by an army of mechanical monkeys – and Hoola, which makes fine if slightly anonymous use of ESG-style dubbed-out bass. But for all the diligent spread of influences, Coconut’s acid-fried eclecticism occasionally strains for effect and lacks the brutish vigour of its predecessor. A commendably outré listen on any other terms, it’s still a sideways-shuffle that never fully convinces.