Beatsteaks' 'Limbo Messiah' is a difficult album to categorise. Opening on a decidedly dark note before flirting with a funkier, quasi-reggae sound, and finally unleashing the hard rocking, hard partying good times with a closing trio of straight-up, fun-loving rock and roll tracks, it also has the disorientating tendency to take hardcore-influenced elements such as gnashing vocals and bristling riffs, and fashion them into hooky rhythms.
First up, Beatsteaks chill us with their dark side: a rocket-fuelled rush of accessible hardcore, in the form of album-opener 'As I Please.' This song is all about the central riff, which flutters jaggedly and dips down unexpectedly to hit bowel quivering low notes. It's a riff-shape Beatsteaks return to time and time again throughout the course of this album. 'As I Please' is snappy hardcore-influenced rock, threaded through with a riff where every pointy twist and turn carves a deeper groove into your grey matter.
But, just when you had Beatsteaks pegged as hardcore and punk influenced purveyors of accessible rock, they unleash forthcoming single 'Jane Became Insane.' This song follows dutifully in 'As I Please's footsteps until it hits the chorus, where it throws a complete curveball with gooey pop vocals and "nah-nah-nah-nah!" yammering that'll make you think of beach parties and good times. 'Cut Off The Top' takes a leaf out of 'Jane Became Insane's book, building on the song's laidback, surfer vibe and cooking up an almost reggae-like feel with a call-and-response topping. 'Cut Off The Top' exerts a gravitational pull on the unsuspecting listener, without ever seeming to break a sweat.
Meanwhile, 'Bad Brain' sees Beatsteaks pulling the masses-pleasing trick of cramming a song full of jagged guitars and vocals, and then moulding them into accessible rhythms. Choruses of guttural, incoherent vocals were never this much fun. You won't have a clue what frontman Arnim Teutoburg-Weib is yowling about, but you'll be trying to sing along regardless.
Beatsteaks' dabbling with multiple genres doesn't always pay off. 'Sharp, Cool & Collected' is a mongrel of a song where each band member seems to be playing something completely different. It borders on unlistenable, especially when Arnim and the guitars begin stuttering, stuck-record style. Avoid. Not quite so dire but still disappointing on an album that features songs of 'As I Please' and 'Jane Became Insane's calibre, is 'Demons Galore.' The headlong, drum-led plunge of 'Demons Galore' will have you balancing on the edge of your seat. However, the drum-rolls rumble on and on, and never get anywhere. A song that's all build-up and no pay-off; expect to feel cheated.
Beatsteaks explore more pop-influenced vocals, with 'Meantime' and 'She Was Great.' For 'Meantime,' Arnim adopts a dreamy lilt that'll fill your head with a delicious, alt-pop fug; while 'She Was Great' takes things a step further. Arnim pulls a doe-eyed, breathy falsetto from somewhere, and drapes it in stylishly lounging guitar lines and some mind-boggling, 'boyband' funkiness. Shape-shifters Beatsteaks have a serious talent for making a vast array of sounds work for them. After the initial shock of stumbling upon this sudden bubble of minimalist pop, 'She Was Great' reveals itself to be an utterly infectious little ditty. It's hard to believe this song was written by the same band who penned 'As I Please.'
After flirting with reggae, pop and hardcore influences, Beatsteaks bring out a trio of rock and roll party tracks, with 'Solijanka,' 'Hail To The Freaks' and 'e-g-o.' The thunderous crunch of 'Solijanka' is threaded through with quirky, fluttering riffs, ala 'As I Please,' while 'Hail To The Freaks' is a static-soaked shimmy underpinned by a snappy, no-nonsense beat, and boasts a walloping, shout-along stormer of a chorus. And, just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Beatsteaks unleash the off-kilter thump of rabble-raising album-closer 'e-g-o.' So infectious and fun, that even the horrendously cheesy backing vocal spelling out "e-g-o" can't ruin this song. Throughout the course of this album, Beatsteaks prove they're perfectly at home with a variety of genres, but rock and roll party tracks are where they're at their best.
Beatsteaks never take the easy route to giddy, danceable rock and roll fun, but that's where they always end up and, what's more, they manage to make their mind-boggling genre fusions sound effortless. Just stay away from 'Sharp, Cool & Collected.'