IMPORTANT PLEASE READ: I originally wrote this review January 14th but accidentally hit delete review instead of delete rating when trying to change my rating and write an edit. I guess I'm still trying to work this website out lmao. Anyway, this was meant to be the edit:
I'll be honest, when I listened to this the first 5 times then wrote my review, I didn't get that much out of the album lyrically and conceptually. Not that I didn't want to, I just couldn't find any form of lyrics online anywhere and I relied on what I could get just by listening. Skip forward to today, I saw a comment by user @Electrode6 (if you're reading this thank you so much!) that pointed me to a booklet of short prose(s) written by LICE themselves that doubly serves as the lyrics to 'WASTELAND'. Jumping at the opportunity, I listened to this album again. Once. Everything suddenly clicked. All of a sudden, this became one of the most interesting listens to an album I've done in quite some time. This album's lyrics and narrative (which act more like prose than lyrics to an album) is so conceptually interesting and by far THE most important aspect of this album, where the instrumentals largely act as incredible backdrops to this album's narrative and concept. I wish I could explain it, but really I urge you to give this album a listen again while reading the booklet, because it really completed this album's experience for me and elevated it. Link to the booklet: https://issuu.com/settledlaw/docs/wasteland_-_what_ails_our_people_is_clear
(thank you again @Electrode6). Original review remains unchanged. Rating per track and average has been adjusted.
ORIGINAL REVIEW (14/01/21):
First and foremost, thank you IDLES for introducing me to LICE, because this album took me COMPLETELY by surprise.
'WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear' is the debut album by Bristol post-punk outfit, LICE. Inspired by the Bristol avant-garde scene (thank you Bandcamp), 'Wasteland' marries equal parts complex industrial, prog, groove, and alienating soundscapes with pummeling walls of sound.
This album is heavy. It pummels and claws at you. 'Arbiter' is built upon soul-crushing booming guitars punching you in the face and laughing at the thrill. It scratches at your mind and leaves you wondering. Song structures twist and turn from loud to quiet to hazy, which creates a very interesting flow all throughout the album. Such as in 'Espontáneo' where a glitchy intro paired with small plucked guitars accompaniments transforms into droning vocals mixed with an indie-flaired post-punk guitars, goes silent, then proceeds to crush you. The album can groove too, like in 'Imposter' with a hint of a spaghetti-western vibe groovy guitars with galloping rimshot-heavy drums. Some songs can even transport you through dimensions, with 'Serata' building a somewhat emotional soundscape; a slow burn that both slows down the flow and sooths you but prepares you for what's to come further on, sort of like Slint's 'For Dinner...'. Ya like jazz? The last half of 'Pariah' has got you covered. The hazy vibe of the outro 'Clear' is soothing and reminiscent of an Alexandra Savior desert-rock soundscape, with background vocals mixing with a subtle and raspy whispered lead vocals. At some points, the album may sound a little too experimental for some ears. To me this point is 'Deluge', while the semi-percussive guitar sound may sound cool, too much of the experimental ideas pile up that ends up making the song one-note and experimental but not for great reason. I will say, the second half of the album, especially after 'Persuader', slightly dips. Even so, the quality of the tracks will pick up again from these small moments of excess in individual, and the flow never really stops all throughout the album.
This is a great album that is definitely an interesting listen for avant-garde post-punk interested ears. A very surprising listen and something I will definitely be coming back to.
1. Conveyor - 8.3 --> 9.3
2. Imposter - 8.3 --> 9.0
3. Espontáneo - 8.9 --> 9.7
4. R.D.C. - 8.2 --> 9.1
5. Pariah - 8.1 --> 8.5
6. Persuader - 8.5 --> 9.3
7. Arbiter - 7.8 --> 9.0
8. Serata - 7.6 --> 9.1
9. Deluge - 6.2 --> 7.7
10. Folla - 7.8 --> 8.7
11. Clear - 8.2 --> 9.4
FAV TRACKS: Espontáneo, Clear, Conveyor, Persuader
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Deluge
Average Score: 8.0 --> 9.0
Given Score: 8.1 --> 9.1, +1 point for the IMO great flow of the album, its lyrics and narrative concept, and general surprise I felt listening to it.
EDIT 21/01/21: Listened to it again today. Do I still think its a 9/10 album? Almost. I'm giving it so many listens, so time will tell how this album ages with me. For now, new score: 88