By Video Nasties
'On All Fours' is the debut full-length from West London's Video Nasties, serving up eleven tracks of fuzzy, heavily-distorted punk, with occasional forays into more experimental territory.
Kicking off with the steady, scuzzy punk-rock of 'HNB,' Video Nasties deliver bursts of bass-led grooviness and jerky, stop-start chords that make for a solid album-opener.
It's easy to see why Video Nasties plan to release second track 'Jellybean' as a single. It's an immediate piece of fuzzy rock, where vocalist J. Ridout paces and pitches each line to ensure they act as irresistible, pop-infused hooks. The chorus, where Ridout's sharp vocal work is combined with a jerky riff, will fix itself in your head after the very first listen.
'Jellybean's heavily distorted edge gives it a rough-and-ready, punkish feel that counteracts the lurking poppiness of the lyrics and vocals, preventing 'Jellybean' from being just another polished, radio-rock song.
'Old Flowers' sees Video Nasties add an echo effect to Ridout's voice. This results in a particularly eerie chorus, as Ridout turns out longer, mournful notes that are guaranteed to give you the shivers. The fug of distorted sound that Video Nasties seem so enamoured with, is mixed up with gloomy chords and a buzzy undercurrent, making 'Old Flowers' a beautifully brooding, black-hearted piece of alt-rock.
'Dead Again' is mostly played out on one level, and consequently lacks bite. Even the chorus marks no change in tempo, and it's devoid of hooks, save for Ridout's mournful wail of "I feel dead again" which might just catch the listener's passing interest. Offering up a handful of brightly-plucked chords, fuzzy riffs, and unobtrusive drumbeats, 'Dead Again' is a subtly beautiful slow-burner, but it's lacking that initial hook that would keep the listener coming back for more.
Video Nasties come over all Muse for the piano-backed 'Conversation Dies.' These piano flourishes energise the steady, buzzy rock of the verses, and each flourish ends in a deep, resonating note. It's catchy, and the nod towards megastars Muse can't help but win Video Nasties points in the popularity stakes, especially when they go all-out with a Muse-centric, epically arty bridge section.
'Albatross' was lifted off the Video Nasties' 2008 'Albatross EP.' Perhaps this explains why it sticks out like a sore thumb on this album. Specialising in rougher vocals and churning, dizzyingly all-over-the-place guitar, 'Albatross' is a bit of a head-scratcher. It may sit uncomfortably on this album, but its raw, thrashy punk is bursting with energy and has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. It's a fun song that'll either be your favourite track on 'On All Fours,' or have you pressing the skip button after about three seconds.
With 'Stay Home' Video Nasties indulge their love of distortion, as an undercurrent of static runs throughout the whole song. It's most apparent during the choruses, where all the scratchy chords are stripped away, leaving only Ridout's hook-packed vocals and a handful of measured, ringing chords to distract the listener from that underlying hiss.
While the static does occasionally become annoying, 'Stay Home' has just enough jerky chords and vocal hooks to make it worth putting up with that underlying buzz.
'Rolling' is 'On All Four's single slow song and, judging by this insipid effort, it's a good thing Video Nasties restricted themselves to just the one. 'Rolling' is by no means awful; the acoustic, synth-studded passages are pretty, in an unassuming way, and the heavier sections of whining slide-guitar and marching drumbeats are quite catchy. However, it's all very repetitive, with Video Nasties plodding joylessly back and forth between these two sections. The lyrics are also lacking the emotional content needed to keep the quieter numbers interesting.
'Rolling' is decent, but ultimately unexciting and frustratingly predictable. Also, there's something rather annoying about Ridout's insistance on pronouncing "grass" as though it rhymes with "arse."
'Kaiser' is an experimental venture that works brilliantly. Ridout's droned vocals are distorted until the words are completely indistinguishable, leaving only a hook-packed, up-and-down hum you'll be itching to sing along to, even though you'll have no idea what the words are.
'Kaiser' is backed by a stream of punkish guitars that remain constant for ninety percent of the song, meaning you'll be able to give those ingenious vocals your full attention. The only change in tempo comes in the form of faster drumbeats and a bridge section of edgier guitars. A catchy, unusual tune, and a definite album highlight.
'Teenage Celebration' takes a leaf out of 'Albatross's book with rougher vocals and discordant, punkish riffs. 'Teenage Celebration' has the same ramshackle energy as 'Albatross' but, at seven and a half minutes long, the messiness gets more tedious than vigorous towards the end, especially when Video Nasties indulge in an overlong instrumental ending that never really seems to go anywhere.
'On All Fours' draws to a close with the sombre 'Colours Bleed,' which is all echoey, distant vocals and atmospheric guitar-picking. The souped-up vocals don't quite gel with the music and, at under two minutes long, 'Colours Bleed' is over and done with before it's made much of an impression on the listener.
'On All Fours' boasts some attention-grabbing tracks. 'Jellybean,' 'Conversation Dies,' 'Albatross' and 'Kaiser' are must-hears for fans of crackly, scuzzed-up punk, while the rest of the album is consistently good, even if it isn't up to the level of its four stand-out tracks. On the strength of this release, it seems plausible we'll be hearing much more from Video Nasties in the near future.