This is a review of "Pifco A Go Go" recorded by Pifco. The review was written by Jessica Thornsby in 2008.
Pifco are one of those bands you’re either going to love or hate. The first potential deal-breaker is frontman Ste’s habit of barking incoherently rather than singing, which will leave a good many people scratching their heads before switching ‘Pifco A Go Go’ off. But, if opening track ‘Jumping Sickness’s bone-shaking blend of rattling drums, looped-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives electro samples and mentalist vocals leave you cold, then you probably should switch ‘Pifco A Go Go’ off, because this is a formula that’s repeated for pretty much the whole of the album.
Second track ‘Snorkle Stalker’ is more jangly, alt-indie Pifco oddness, but played faster and louder, with extra layers of synths and more prominent drums. It’s a complex mix, but the synths that blare out every few seconds give ‘Snorkle Stalker’ the immediately catchy moments it needs, and proves that Pifco have an ear for the unusual hook.
With ‘Snorkle Stalker’ it becomes apparent that, although Ste’s vocals are strikingly different, they aren’t particularly strong, and the drums frequently drown him out. This is a reoccurring problem, with the very thing that makes Pifco so distinctive being too-often regulated to background noise.
This is particularly the case in ‘The Long Island Incident’ and ‘Get!!’ with the buzzy-edged synths of ‘The Long Island Incident’ completely taking the edge off of Ste’s barked vocals, and making Pifco sound borderline normal.
The undercurrent of crunchy, grunge-tinged synths in ‘Jonny No Name’ shows a darker side to Pifco. However, it isn’t a complete success as the synths are often so loud and distorted that ‘Jonny No Name’ is on the verge of becoming unpleasant to listen to. When Ste’s vocals are ricocheting off the synths, it does have a softening effect, and ‘Jonny No Name’ becomes a song you can just about enjoy, but Ste’s vocals are spread too thinly in this song, and for the most part there’s nothing to distract us from that horrible crunching sound.
‘Aluminium Shoes’ blends fluttering riffs and harsh synths that, like the rest of ‘Pifco A Go Go,’ shouldn’t work, but does. Although a few of the more strident sound effects might set your teeth on edge, most of the contrasting electro and jangly indie elements of ‘Aluminium Shoes’ combine to create irresistibly off-kilter hooks that’ll keep you coming back for more. The same can’t be said for follow-up track ‘Mixer’ though, which showcases how Pifco’s two contrasting sides don’t always come together quite right.
‘The Embassy Dinner’ sees a distortion effect added to Ste’s voice. Although tinkering with the very thing that makes them so distinctive could have been disastrous, it actually puts a new slant on Pifco’s sound, which is exactly what’s needed after almost an entire album’s worth of material. ‘Race Course Race Horse’ also pulls this trick, with some serrated synths revealing a darker side to the band. ‘Race Course Race Horse’ and ‘The Embassy Dinner’ are guaranteed to re-engage any listener who thinks they know exactly what to expect from Pifco at this late point in the album.
Beyond its darker synths, ‘Race Course Race Horse’ is another slice of jerky, Pifco addictiveness, apart from a jarring burst of crackling synths that crops up halfway through the song before, suddenly, ‘Race Course…’ jolts back to normal. This highlights the ever-present danger of Pifco taking their quirkiness too far and alienating their audience, which thankfully they don’t make a habit of on this album.
‘Face Wall Paper’ has an undercurrent of crunchy synths similar to those of ‘Jonny No Name.’ Pifco may go easier on the distortion this time, but that grunge-influenced synth still completely dominates ‘Face Wall Paper,’ making it one of the weaker songs on the album.
‘Cliff Jumper and Hound’ makes heavy use of organ-imitating synths that, inexplicably, complement Pifco’s jangly sound perfectly. ‘Cliff Jumper…’ is Pifco on top form: a quick, infectious alt-indie jaunt, crammed with looped samples and spring-heeled drums.
It’s the perfectly odd-but-accessible end to an album that will worm its way into your affections by being different, without being too different. Pifco may occasionally drown out their own strongest asset, and they may occasionally indulge their creative side at the risk of losing their likeable-oddballs status and becoming just plain odd (this is the case with ‘Jonny No Name’ and ‘Face Wall Paper’ in particular) but ultimately they manage to avoid this fate, and turn out a raucous, off-kilter album of indie-influenced oddness.