By Violent Soho
Violent Soho bring bass-soaked grunge bang up to date with lashings of throat-full-of-broken-glass punk caterwauling on their self-titled second album.
Album highlights 'Here Be Dragons,' 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend' and 'Son of Sam' all subscribe to this formula of thick, slurpy basslines and ear-shredding vocal shrapnel. Lead-off single 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend' has that attitude-packed, punk swagger nailed, not to mention a kooky squeal of bass that'll drag you deep into 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend's sludge. 'Here Be Dragons' has the same combo of sticky bass beats, splattered with bloodthirsty vocals. The combination of grunge's sinister moodiness and punk's in-your-face aggression, is doubly unsettling. The choruses mangle the punk and grunge elements into an unexpectedly catchy shape, where the bass throbs to a simple but effective rhythm, and the main and backing vocals ricochet in a hooky, call-and-response fashion. But, the strongest of the trio has to be 'Son of Sam.' This is an inwards-churning swamp of bass, that only turns its attention outwards when it wants to gnash at the listener.
Another album highlight is 'Slippery Tongue.' During the chorus, Violent Soho crank the bass up to a thunderous crunch that leaves scarcely enough room for frontman Luke Boerdam to squeeze in some drawling, stylishly laidback vocals. This is grunge with an unexpectedly slick slant, and it'll slime its way into your long term memory and have you walking around humming the chorus in no time.
However, when Violent Soho drop the thick basslines and concentrate on sounding punk, they don't really have anything new to bring to the table. The choruses of 'My Generation' and 'Love Is A Heavy Word' are pretty run-of-the-mill punk fodder. However 'My Generation' does feature some stylish punk rock riffs, and 'Love Is a Heavy Word' does keep breaking out into a sprawl of sloppy punk riffing, meaning that these are enjoyable re-runs. Violent Soho finally get straight-up punk right, with 'Bombs Over Broadway.' This is a foot-stamping punk shout-along, where the riffs grumble away behind a murmur of bass during the verses and roar vengefully to life on the full-on punk choruses.
Perhaps the most unexpected facet to this album, are the slower songs. 'Muscle Junkie' channels all of the Violent Soho aggression into a skin-crawling bassline where the bitterness is tangible, and eventually spills into a hateful snarl of a chorus. 'Muscle Junkie' is a long, slow, torturous grind of intense hatred. It's actually far more disturbing than Violent Soho at their noisiest. 'Outsider' and 'Narrow Ways' are even more pared-down.
'Outsider' is the very last thing you were expecting: a sombre acoustic number where frontman Boerdam laments about feeling alienated. The acoustic guitar has an infectious patter, and there's genuine emotion in Boerdam's voice, which makes up for the fact that melodic singing clearly isn't his forte. Even the lyrics have an uncharacteristic poetic flourish. This is completely different from everything else on the album and it's a successful change of pace - even if it isn't as much fun as 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend.'
'Narrow Ways' is Violent Soho at their most melodic. The choruses whine with slide-guitar and, although once again this isn't the best sort of song for Boerdam's hoarse voice, the emotion in his voice more than compensates for that. 'Narrow Ways' is a grower. The novelty of Violent Soho stepping out of their comfort zone, combined with that lamenting slide-guitar, will slowly win you over. Expect to find yourself singing along after three or four listens.
Violent Soho serve up some storming tracks of soupy, sticky bass, whilst bringing grunge firmly into the 21st century with a nasty dose of punk rock. 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend' and 'Son of Sam' are essential listening for fans of the grunge revival. It's also refreshing to hear a grunge band who aren't afraid to pen a few ballad-esque tracks, which add an extra dimension to this album. Worth purchasing for 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend' and 'Son of Sam' alone.