It might be the time of the year, but it seems likes there are Witches everywhere. A couple of weeks back I finally caught The Witches, one of Manchester's best unsigned acts, in a rather decent performance in an in-store gig, and now Southend-On-Sea band Beatglider pop up with an album of the same name.
Beatglider have been described as "slacker pop legends", which hardly filled me with anticipation as I must confess that I hate the term "slacker", depicting to me a group of long haired lazy lard arses who rise at 4pm and play half-hearted lethargic indie rock. I needn't have worried, however, as other than the odd exception, this is a more than decent effort.
Witches opens with the brief instrumental Telepathic and straightaway you know this is a band that belongs to the My Bloody Valentine school of playing a tune through next door's walls. The Rattlesnake follows and is another that brings MBV to mind, albeit in their more muscular moments, before calming down and coming on a bit earnest singer songwriter. Where Time Stands Still, meanwhile, opens with a Bunnymen's Stars Are Stars-like riff and sounds like Kurt and the boys might have sounded if Will Sergeant had made a guest appearance at that Nirvana Unplugged session, and Beck had been on vocals.
So far so good then, but the lyrics of Wasteful Is Love, where the rhyme factor seems much more important than anything that the band are actually trying to say, are so shocking that the merits or otherwise of the music are neither here nor there. When Peter Perrett opened the classic Only Ones debut LP with the line "I used to have the notion that I could swim the length of the ocean if I knew you were waiting for me", you believed him. And Perrett being as great lyricist as he is doesn't push his luck. He doesn't say "I used to have the notion I could swim the length of the ocean if I knew there was…some potion". That, however, is pretty much what Beatglider do, as the second verse of Wasteful Is Love goes something like this…
"He ran into the ocean
His life was a commotion
He used it as a potion
To travel in slow motion."
Honestly, words fail me. But not as much as they failed whoever came up with that pile of poo!
Wild Night is better, though. Opening with a plucked acoustic it has a real sense of foreboding and is another that brings to mind Beck, albeit a Beck who has woke up on some horrible cold damp autumn day in a filthy mood. Dark Dark Woods, meanwhile, sounds like a hungover Arcade Fire and it's probably fair to say that their first coffee of the day only really starts to take effect half way through.
Layers Of Bark is a short 60s-like number with lo-fi production and a distant voice singing about being scared of the dark. Rather good it is, too, but it's not a patch on Lights On The Water, which is easily the best track here with lovely heartfelt vocals, a great chord sequence, and a deep throbbing bassline. It's definitely a track I'm going to keep coming back to. Your Fingers Bright isn't bad either, sounding like one of The Stones more psychedelic numbers (think We Love You) would have sounded like if Kevin Shields had got his grubby mitts on it.
Sleepers is a short instrumental that features that underwater sounding guitar effect that graced Pet Sounds and which fellow Southeast England act Junkboy used on their recent Three album. Witches itself is a track that basically fits my definition of "slacker", sounding like Sonic Youth at their most dis-interested. It's not bad by any means, but a bit more energy wouldn't have gone amiss during its first few minutes. Admittedly, the energy levels go up as the number progresses and those shoegazery effects start to swirl with a little more feeling before things get, well, a bit Polyphonic Spree towards the end. Beatglider then bring things back down as Witches ends with the low-key and rather pretty Natures Arms.
So, all in all, Witches is something of a mixed bag with lots of ambition, but it's an album that would probably benefit from editing. Still, there's enough good moments here to appeal to those of you who don't find the sh*eg*ze word offensive.