This album is so much more than adequate.
Sounding like a twisted fusion of crazed experimental rock combined with sweet and instantly catchy pop melodies, with each song sounding as exciting, unique and aggressively experimental as it does sound extremely accessible, danceable and fun, this album feels both outstandingly fresh but densely refined. This is a record that feels new and exciting, but at the same time extremely thought out with honed in and direct lyricism paired with off the wall and explosive instrumentation. ‘For the First Time’ sounds like a band who has been crafting their sound for years, like this album has been tinkered with until it is as sharp and as biting as it possibly could be for years, and for a debut project? That is more than just impressive; that’s a fucking miracle.
It’s an album that can scare you with it’s sour notes, loud guitars and off kilter vocal passages, but it’s also an album that you can still dance to. It’s like hearing a radio edit of Swans being remixed by John Coltrane, and it’s an extremely infectious and euphoric listen. Nearly every single track here hits that ‘peak music’ quota I give for music that makes me accend, but it never feels too abstract, like I couldn’t put it on among my daily listening.
This album is like a young man. A slubby, neurotic and extremely nervous man, but a man. This album is a man who was in his final years at University, still living with his parents, and works a 9-12 job every morning during summer break to get quick cash to spend with friends at the pub, or to get fast food, or to buy meaningless items online. This album is a man who is sexually repressed, wanting intimacy and love but ficating on lust, self hating yet wanting love to fix him. This album is a man who hates his town, even if he grew up loving it. This album is a man who is stuck, who wants to move past the green grass and to go into new territories, new horizons and new roads. This album is a man who wants nothing more than to be seen.
This album is a man who is anxious to the core. A man who fear leaving the house, in the horrors of yet another relentless beatdown by those he calls friends. Another wrestle for attention, combat for love, war for peace in mind. But here, in black country, nothing changes. Nothing improves, nothing is altered. Like a statue corroding in rust, it stays the same. And this album hates the smell of it.
‘She flies to Paris, France I come down in her childhood bed, and write the words I'll one day wish that I had never said…’
This man is a mess, standing at a party with a drink in one hand and a pocket in the other. People pass him by, like ghosts wandering through a haunted mansion. He wonders if this will be all that he will ever be: a sitcom extra in the lives of those more important. Words for how to describe the scene he has placed himself in swim in his head like elegant fish, while someone has just queued up the newest Frank Ocean song on the UE BOOM. The crowd cheers. He just smiles, nods and quickly sips the lukewarm taste of homemade petrol that takes the name ‘Beer’.
A bellowing cry heard out amongst the crowd. The man darts his head towards the noise, only to see his half-sober half-friend with a lady in tow pushing through the crowd. Like a deer in headlights, he smiles and stares, waiting for the collision. An awkward conversation that was bound to happen at any point now.
And indeed, the conversation goes on. The declaration of ‘it’s been ages!’ (even if it has only been about 4 months, but hey, who is counting), the eventual talk of ‘have you gotten laid yet?’, all of the ingredients for a recipe of nerves. The woman, clearly having one too many drinks, stands there, giggling away at the friend's quips about the time that they threw up in the sink of the host, or the time they threw up in the toilet of the host, or the time they threw up on the host.
“Sounds...lovely…”, the man is able to croak out without throwing up himself. As the stories continue, his eyes drift off, with his pupils wondering. He casts his sight out to the sea of people, all somehow moving to loud Drum and Bass music blasting from a pink UE BOOM owned by the host. Loud enough so you can’t hold a conversation, but quiet enough to hear the drunken screams of the party goers. And out in the sea is a pearl, someone who stood out amongst the rest. She sparkles in the dark, strobe-lit room, as if she was the only one in their at all.
“...Well it was good chatting with y-actually, are you going to the Science Fair tomorrow?”, the friend is able to regurgitate.
‘It’s Black Country out there…’.
The album is a man who is self critical, self loathing and self destructive, yet ambitious. He wants to be the number one winner at the ‘Science Fair’, to be the best and to never let any opportunity pass him by. Secretly, as an artist, he doesn’t just want to be known as the ‘the world's second-best Slint tribute act’, but rather a man who wants to be original and wants nothing more than to stand out from the crowd he has so easily immersed himself in.
“Did you bring the matches?”, mutters the man, struggling to keep his smile in frame on his face.
“..The what?”, recalls a friend of his. They are both dressed in lab coats and glasses, as if they are imitators of men with power.
“The matches, for the experiment.”, the man nervously stammers through.
“...I thought you were grabbing them.”, the friend states with despair.
“Excu-I literally told you this morning to grab them from the kitchen this fucking morning!”, the man quietly screams, finger pressed on the chest of the friend.
A nervous cloud forms inside his head, raining on him thoughts of disappointment and dread. ‘I will never make it in this town, this town is just the worst, the people in this town don’t know anything, this town, this town, this fucking town, this…’
All of a sudden, in front of the man; “So what’s this you’ve got going on here?”
“Uh...nothing really.”, the man blasts out. This entire experiment has been the only thing keeping him from pure insanity for the last 3 weeks, but right now it means absolutely nothing.
“It looks awfully complicated for nothing. Especially with the coats.”, she wistfully replies.
“It’s just...a more complicated version of a sodium volcano. Nothing special, we just…”, the man tries to crack.
“It’s that we use more gasoline.”, the friend chimes in.
“G...gasoline?”, she responds.
“OK, maybe a little gas, but it’s fine. It’s completely safe.”, the man nervously stutters.
She starts to giggle. “It better be if you want to win.”
“Well, it’s not we want to win or anything, this is just a bit of…”
“Fun?”, she interrupts.
“...Yeah.”, the man responds.
“Well, if you want actual fun, i’m going to a Black Midi show a little later if you want to come?”, she said, looking directly into the man's eyes.
He wants to say yes. But the man finds it increasingly harder to do so, plagued with inner thoughts of past guilt, past mistakes, making him recoil and reclusive into his own private shell. ‘I have always been a liar’, or so he thinks.
This album is a man, and ‘Science Fair’ paints a horrifying portrait of that man who wants nothing more than to be seen, whether it's at a Cirque du Soleil show or at the ‘Science Fair’. This track is a desperate cry for attention, turning to Instagram in the safety of his mothers home (‘Still living with my mother, As I move from one micro-influencer to another’). It’s a track that is self deprecating in the millennial view of love and decides that it needs an escape.
And he does.
‘I am so ignorant now, with all that I have learnt.’
This album is a man who wants to escape. Sitting in the room of his father, he stares at a mirror, a glossy silver version of himself. He sits in a button-up shirt, black jeans and fresh haircut, no danger in his life whatsoever. He found himself lost in the light of the TV, courtesy of his father. And that’s all he sees in the mirror; his father.
“...The fuck am I doing?”, the man thinks.
This album is a man who wants to escape. This man is tired of coaxing through life, just going day to day feeling bored and meaningless. He doesn’t want to become just like his own father, who has become content in being a snarky, critical snake, slivering through life on a 9-5 job with just enough money to pay for his mortgage. His fear is becoming his father, and complaining of mediocre theatre in the daytime and ice in single malt whiskey at night, of rising skirt hems, lowering IQs and things just aren't built like they used to be; The absolute pinnacle of British engineering.
“...No, really, what the fuck am I doing?”, the man thinks.
Hopping from the couch, the man decides to put the shades on, ignoring society's preconceptions of how he should live his life, and screams that he is ‘more than adequate’. He opens the front door and steps out, confident, proud and ready for anything, feeling akin to that of ‘the Fonz’ or ‘the Jack of Hearts’. He screams of self love runs for the hills for a better life, middle finger shaking in the air as he runs throughout the town, across all of the stores. The shackles he set for himself are finally loosened, and he can finally feel the wind flow through his hair. ‘Finally...’ he thinks to himself, ‘...finally’.
‘I thought of my father and proving him wrong...’
And with the song ‘Track X’, this album screeches on the brakes and takes us on a deeper, more personal look at this man. He’s holding hands with someone who he loves while his brain tells him that he doesn’t deserve it, as the lights are blaring at a venue that he’s been to a million times. Various bands come through and go, like Black Midi and Jerskin, but yet the person they love stays. A constant in a world full of inconsistencies. A beating heart in a town full of flatlines. Everytime she looks at him, he skips a beat and sweats a little. When they touch, it feels like electricity. With gritted teeth and nerves coming out of his neck, he manages to conjure the words, “You've got great hips...I've been shaking ever since.”.
“I’m sorry?”, she manages to spit out amongst the noise.
“I….You….Never mind.”, brushes off the man.
“Wai...hold on!”, she declares, grabbing his hand and pulling him out of the crowd, through the droves of people, like a shepherd guiding a lost lamb. She bursts the front door to the venue open, a cold burst of snowy air hitting them both. Outside, there is nothing but a street light, or at least it feels like it. She drags him out to the snow, and throws daggers with her eyes directly into his.
“What did you say?”
“I….Your hi-COUGH-your hips...are really good.”
“You made me drag you all the way out here, just so that you can tell me I have nice hips?”, she snarkily bites.
“Well...I mean..you do?”, he shuffles around the statement on tiptoes.
“You are such a fucking dork.”
An awkward laugh leaves both of them, ice broken as snow forms around their tense feet. An awkward silence fills the cold, brisk air. Their eyes connect once more. She just smiles, but somehow the smallest grin from the corners of her mouth sets his entire mind on fire.
“You are amazing.”, he forces out.
“...is that a bad thing?”, he claims.
She steps up to hum, grabs him by the sides and kisses him. And in that one moment, he could have sworn he felt like he was gonna explode.
‘What we built to keep ourselves warm, burnt your hand and charmed the locals...’
This album is a man, staring down a bridge on a bike. The road seems to go on forever, and yet he knows there's an end. There is always an end.
“I fucking hate it here.”, says the man.
“What, here? What’s there to hate?”, say the women, holding him from the back.
“I don’t know...everything. Nothing changes. Nothing improves, nothing is altered. It just kind of…”
“Stays? Like a statue?”
“Exactly! It’s like...the town has this curse on it, and forces everyone to act the same, it drives me fucking bonkers!”, the man cathartically screams.
“I have never in my life heard you swear this much.”, she gracefully retorts.
“I...sorry, I...I didn’t mean...I…”
“No, don’t apologise. It’s funny.”
“OK, you can guess, but I know.”
“...Should we just...I don’t know...leave?”
“Or tomorrow. The next day, i’m not sure. I just need to get out of here.”
“....Of black country? Are you kidding?”
“They built a new road over the bridge, it is literally a bike ride away from somewhere completely different, and we can just go and never look back.”
“...I don’t...I don’t know.”
“Didn’t you just said you hate it here? Didn’t you just say that this place just stays the same? If we stay here a single second more, we will end up statues.”
“...Have you ever considered that I might want to be a statue?”
“Stop fucking saying that!”
“...I can’t just drop my entire life just because you want to have a fun flirtatious escape. Look, I know that this city is far from perfect, believe me, but...I don’t know dude, I just...it’s gonna be black country out there too.”
The mans mind races around the thought. No. There has to be something more than this. Something more than a city filled with sitting ducks. There has to be something new. Something interesting. There has to be.
“...look, i’m asking you to leave, because if you don’t come with me, I….I don’t know if i’ll ever come back to get you.”, he solemnly states.
“..Maybe its best you go alone then. I hope you have a great fucking life.”, she states. She starts walking away, every step as determined as the words she just said.
This album is a man. A flawed, deeply human man. A man who knows his mistakes, who is self aware. This man looks back at the ashes he created, and escapes. He creates, in his mind, an end to the odyssey that he set out for himself. He creates a grand finale to his life here in his toxic town, creating an ‘Opus’ that can stand the test of time as he leaves the town reborn and re-energized. He looks back at the burned city, leaving the rubble as just that: rubble. He could almost feel the wind through his hair. He could feel...free.
It might be black country out there, but it’s better than here.
And for the first time, this man feels free.
For the very first time.
Favorite Jams: Sunglasses, Opus, Science Fair
Lest Favorite: I honestly don't have any, every song hits peak music...but I guess the weakest is Instrumental?