This beautiful record landed on my doorstep a couple of days ago. I would have bought it back when it came out at the end of July last year, but my humble rock and roll salary (hourly waitressing wage) didn’t allow for it at the time and I put the whole thing off. Partly because every god damn webzine was streaming it anyway. Writing anything about it now seems almost superfluous, as it’s been pretty fucking comprehensively swallowed up, digested and (doubtless) excreted by the giant PR machine that is the London music scene. None the less, it’s the first new record I’ve bought since starting this blog, so you’re going to hear about it anyway.
I’ve been going to see Vuvuvultures fairly regularly since the release of their first EP a few years back. Even back then they were pretty damn slick and, with the release of their début album, they’ve only got slicker. Despite this, they’ve neatly avoided the pitfall of overproduction – not overdoing to the point that the experience of listening to a gritty, underground alt. pop record is ruined. In fact, their innate sense of balance between polishing it up and keeping it real is one of the major strengths of Vuvuvultures. There’s loads of nasty influences in there, but they’ve got this delightful knack of turning it all into something rather more kitsch. For me, there’s a lot in common with post-Violator Depeche Mode – in the way they combine a mechanistic, precise musical approach with a much more organic sound palette. The result is a surprisingly unique record in the context of today’s underground music scene, which tends towards bands either going back a much more vintage sound (e.g. Purson, Uncle Acid, TOY, etc) or going for the ultra modern autotuned-to-buggery approach (i.e. anything you hear on Radio 1).
They’re obviously following a well trodden musical path, but they’ve picked up a trail more or less neglected by many their contemporaries. Since the advent of extremely powerful computerised electronic music equipment, it’s rare to hear a band getting creative with both guitars, drums AND bits of electronic junk to create interesting new sounds. I’d like to sit Paul Rez (their guitarist and the man behind “The Applience Of Science”, the bands home made sampler/tone generator) in a room with Cabaret Voltaire circa 1978 and see how they’d get on.
The band have always had a deep sense of independence about them – everything from launching themselves off the back of their own club nights (“The Island” collective) to releasing the album on their own Energy Snake records. This has always made them a strong, proud and unique headline act, but it does make me wonder whether they might be inhibiting larger scale success by being too headstrong. Even if this is the case, good. It’s nice to watch a band pandering to no one but themselves. That’s what rock and roll is about isn’t it? Hedonistic self indulgence. You’ll get plenty of that on this album, for sure.
Another great thing about this group is the understated why they’ve avoided being lumped into the “genre” that is female musicians, despite being equally split in the gender department. It’s annoying as hell that in the alternative music world the presence of a female singer instantly makes a band an offshoot of some other female artist (Siouxsie Sioux being the most obvious example if, like me, you’re a massive goth). In this case, their singer has somehow been allowed to just have her own voice and sing in it. In fact, the whole record feels sort of passively feminist, in that it ignores the topic of gender all together. Maybe they’ve missed a trick or maybe I’ve just not noticed some of the lyrical subtleties, but either way it feels good that they seem totally unaffected and unconcerned by the machismo of rock and roll in general.
One last aside: I’ve deliberately avoided doing a track by track analysis, but it is worth pointing out that they’ve made the (mental) decision to leave the excellent ‘Stay Still’ off the album. Stay Still was a digital single that filled the gap between the first EP and this record. Not only have they left it off the album, but they also failed to put it on the accompanying 7″ single, which features an A and B side both taken straight off the LP – they’re not even different versions. Why not stick Stay Still on the 7″? Since it was only released online it now basically doesn’t exist from a record collectors point of view.
Above: The entirely pointless 7″ release. I bought it anyway because I liked the cover.