By Elle Milano
Irony is a lot like ironing, and more than just linguistically. You can look pretty darn smart if you can pull off either, but it's oh-so easy to botch up. Brighton trio Elle Milano's Swearing's For Art Students EP (2006) however, managed to come across with tongue firmly in cheek, whilst sounding simultaneously brilliant. Four sticks of purest Brighton art-rock at its most discordant, most volatile and wittiest.
It's a few years on now and I still find myself ploughing into this review with just the tiniest of suspicions that the three brains of Elle Milano are considerably better than my one.
A partnership of jaunty piano and swaggering guitar herald the opening of Acres of Dead Space Cadets. Marking a pattern which the rest of the album will follow, Laughing All The Way to the Plank twists and turns at every given opportunity; at once an impenetrable wall of noise which then suddenly drops away to reveal little more than the slow tinkling of piano keys, before more noise. It sounds like Blur strapped to a rollercoaster.
My Brother, The Astronaut and Katsuki And The Stillettoed Stranger follow suit, the latter a galloping stop-start guitar-driven wallop of a song. The Young Knives similarities are perhaps the strongest here, but the vocal range of frontman Adam Crisp adds a further unpredictability to the sound; hot-footing from a south London indie drone to Test Icicles-esque screeching in a heartbeat.
My Brother, The Astronaut, glows with discordant glory, accelerating angrily before jagged guitars send it veering off in another direction.
On the other hand, first single Meanwhile in Hollywood is a more easily digestible affair; potentially aimed at reaping the band some daytime airplay. There's a decent melody here, but the track suffers somewhat; the 'rapped' verse vocals failing to inspire. I cannot help but feel that by replacing this and similar under-achievers Stepkids in Love and Carousels, with three from their earlier EP, Elle Milano would have an unfaultable debut here. Regardless, there's plenty on here to get excited about.
By no means is this a one-listen album. It'll take time, maybe four or five listens to work out and for your brain to catch up with your ears, but its clever stuff. I cannot even begin to explore a lyrical analysis, restricted as I am by word limits et al, but suffice to say Elle Milano have lost not one milligram of their ironic wit. The movement, discordancy and ambition behind Acres of Dead Space Cadets make it well-worthy of a listen, if not a few. "This art is kinetic," Elle Milano chant on Katsuki And The Stillettoed Stranger. I couldn't put it better if I tried.