By Various Artists
This review is really rather late, for which I apologise profusely. If I may, I shall explain how I came to be so rubbish at time-keeping, life-maintenance and being able to do stuff in general. Firstly, I became domestically dependent upon myself - this meant incurring several run-ins with an exploding microwave, watching over the tumble-dryer for its full cycle to make sure it didn't pull a similar trick and discovering the extent to which Flash is a fantastic multi-purpose bathroom cleaner. I also spilt a full can of baked beans all over the carpet. Secondly, I mistakenly offered to lend the album over which my bleary eye is currently cast to a friend. NEVER do this. KEEP your own copies of this record. If you loan these precious things out they will mutate into many-talon'd musical monsters, demonically possessing your nearest and dearest and transforming them into CD-stealers of the highest possible status. However, following an arduous trek to said person's flat, a forceful snatch of the hand, a quick spray of Mace and a swift getaway I successfully rescued my pressing of 'Leeds: 2005' from the loving (and now distraught) embraces of its ardent new disciple. Then I sat down for a good hour or so and wrote about it; the result of which can be seen below.
Vatican Jet's 'Ramona Hearts VJ' slinks in on a squelchy ground of sly feedback; a salivating sabre-toothed tiger grinning at you seductively from the heaving depths of the sweaty jungle. In one minute and fifty six seconds it tenses its Jurassic muscles as a wave of drums ripples through its hot system of fiery fur and spikes all your raw nerve endings with poisonous claws of guitar, flashing its spheres of snake-like emerald eyes through an acidic riff. What with this mucky goodness and the seething, shimmering circles of saturnine, sighing vocal effortlessness belonging to The Somatics' 'Can't Believe It's True' with its excellently-taut, fingernails-down-a-chalkboard guitar solo brimming with terse tension, you begin to doubt that things can possibly improve.
Suspend your belief, then, for The Sunshine Underground's rancid blast of soldering-iron sizzle. 'The Way It Is' tick-tocks into existence, then shakes, rattles and rolls your poor self around the floor until your every limb is firing off arrow-headed sparks and all your internal organs have fallen out. Scraping the dirt out of each recess and setting fire to every particle, digging up energy from the pits of Satan's cellar, this band cannot fail to get any apathetic raggle-taggle wanderer searching for a purpose up on their feet and SCREAMING. Craig welds and melts the lyrics into one steaming squall of primal steel until you're not quite sure what you're actually yelling back at the speakers; all you know is that, sometimes (or most of the time, in fact), they feel revolutionary.
Speaking of grime and scum of the most delicious kind, just listen to that grinding, gravelly bass of This Et Al kick in like a raging petulant beneath Wu's wreaths of virile splutters and ringwraith exhalations. The f-word never sounded so filthily good. As if this discordant tar slammed into a concrete mixer wasn't enough to ruin your sanity, it all suddenly pans out into a dark, twinkling forest of interweaving, echoing guitar lines and resounding drumroll sprays of the bleak seashores. Itch extend this concept of gargled, strangled abandon blitzed together with panoramic, frosty atmospheres to the extreme and emerge from a twisting tunnel of unexpected, jagged delights with an absolutely round-the-bend masterpiece of spontaneous combustion and severely deranged lunacy.
Heck. Then there's the elvish, alien, spider-fingered weirdness of downdime's vocals; the terrifying psychiatrist's rant of Bilge Pump's '5ft Freebird' and the icicle-barbed avalanche of iLiKETRAiNS' brass-laced glacier, 'THELASTDAYSOFWiNTER', continuing where Samsa's expansive vistas left off, managing to make you shudder and judder until you're curled up in a ball with the light off crying at the unguarded humanity of it all. Horrendously beautiful.
I've not finished. At the vivid, clever-party-pop end of the palette, throwing all manner of primary colours together in a glorious making-a-mess-with-the-poster-paints way and peppering it with multi-sparkling glittery bits, we have the lunatic carousel of O Fracas' 'Moth To A Flame', rickety Rickenbackers buttoned up in straitjackets like uniformed soldiers with cheeky glints in their eyes. These connoisseurs of feisty irreverence give way to that snapshot of snub-nosed, quacking teenage capers belonging to Buen Chico's 'Killing Somebody', whilst the wobbly womble organs of New Minds Eye, the insatiable, sticky soda-stream of The Breech's 'The Shores' and Bad Beat Revue's rabble-shout eventually crash into Young Professionals' fantastically-quirky handclappy jerk of a track, 'Nth Degree', which incontinently piddles out lots of little tunes like a giddy puppy. Plus: The Acutes nestling cosily somewhere around track four like a small, dusty gemstone. Oh, and plus: The Smokestacks twanging and clicking their fingers and tongues like country chickens.
Finally, the gospel according to David Thomas Broughton will shut you up once and for all. Wise and downtrodden but optimistic, he aches out knowledge over a crisp acoustic. Silence at the back, please, children; for this is the sound, the fury and the joy of being here, now, doing this and with these people.
Congratulations, folks - Engine Room Records' 'Leeds: 2005' is the towering achievement of a city fighting the frontiers of music; and winning.