ATOMIC BATTERIES TO POWER - The Scoundrelles (Bang! Records)
If you were wondering what guitarist Tony Thewlis was doing on holidays from the Scientists, here's your answer. The Scoundrelles are one of his UK bands (the Groovin' Flames with ex-Flamin' Groovies leading light Chris Wilson being another) and they're worthy of attention. This is their second album and comes to you in digipak glory from Spanish (Basque Country) label Bang!
It has to be a bummer being a present or past member of the Scientists because that's the benchmark by which you're constantly judged, so let's get the inevitable out of the way and state that The Scoundrelles are a lot less brash and sonically severe. There's a dirty garage undercurrent here but The Scoundrelles rhythmically ebb and flow rather than flat-out throb. The Scuzzy Fuzz Factor is toned down too with a psych melodicism shining through.
It's hard to pin down "Atomic Batteries To Power" because it bounces all around the place. Variety can be both a virtue and a weakeness; in this instance, it keeps things interesting but doesn't really define its character. That doesn't mean this is a bad album. On the contrary, it's good. It keeps you guessing and takes a few plays to get into.
The band likes comparisons to the Flaming Lips and I'll grant them that one. In that vein "Glidrose Grisle" might just show The Scoundrelles at their psych-melody tripping best. While on the subject, the glistening guitar from Thewlis and Diggory Kenrick on the soaring "Middle of a Broken Heart" will sure take some beating.
The album was recorded at four different studios (including the magnificent sounding Toe Rag in London) but its consistency doesn't suffer. God only knows, any Northern Hemisphere band with a sniff of garage about it ought to record at Toe Rag.
On a song like "Shut Down" ,The Scoundrelles turn on a sound that's distinctly English freakbeat with psychedelic feedback darting in and out of a background of shimmery twang. Their covers of the Troggs' "Give It To Me" and Suicide's magnificently abrasive "Rocket USA" put their other most overt influences (garage-trash and minimalism) on display but there are plenty more if you dig deep.
"Present Forever" is dirty country rock that recalls the early Beasts but with a sweeter tang while "The Girly Song" crosses into Mott the Hoople territory, while "Enter Girls Gone Wild" is a Gurus-style garage rave up with whoops and hollers.
"Don't Know Why" is freakbeat pop with a great Thewlis vocal and soaring guitar solo, while the closing "The Scoundrelles Will Return" is a playful excursion down the path of amiable instro pop with organ battling traces of skewed guitar. Listen for it as the theme music for some obscure kids' TV show. - The Barman
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