- 11 Feb 22
The Head Trip
I could forgive alt-J anything for ‘3WW’, the opening track on their last album RELAXER, featuring the vocals of Wolf Alice’s Ellie Roswell. It’s a marvellous recording, evoking a sort of indie rock Traffic, so much so it really should have come with that pink Island label in the middle.
There’s nothing to forgive, mind, as one listen to lead single ‘U&Me’ – a bluesy guitar, the puncturing chorus and then the addition of the woo-woo backing vocal – attests. When Joe Newman sings about “holding on to the memory of that day for the rest of my life,” he is, apparently, remembering the good times of being at a festival with his pals, and we’re all looking forward to experiencing that again, hopefully while singing along with him.
The gentle – and quietly moving - ‘Get Better’ is a beautiful/sad love song built on memories of the one he still pretends is “only out of sight in the other room” that also “honours frontline workers” while the motorik groove of ‘Hard Drive Gold’ with its cheese/genius organ break will have them all waving their arms at the indie disco. It’s an album full of such variety, whether it’s The-Beatles-having-some-sort-of-medieval-nightmare-under-water opener ‘Bane’ – get the lads from Coca-Cola on the phone, we’ve found the soundtrack to their new ad campaign - or the sound-dripping-down-a-window-pane background noise of, and the lovely way the guitar reiterates the vocal melody in, ‘Happier When You’re Gone’, the feint Japan-isms of ‘The Actor’ with its great vocal hook and what may be a pleasingly melodic toasting to the joys of cocaine, or when ‘Chicago’ turns into ‘Blue Monday’ briefly before heading somewhere else altogether.
‘Walk A Mile’ manages - after opening with an unlikely barbershop quartet - to sound like the blues without sounding like the blues, ‘Powders’ could be the result of Roy Orbison taking all the wrong pills and briefly joining The Velvet Underground, and even the brief a cappella ‘Delta’ is both odd and endearing at the same time. Is this, as a friend intimated, a sort of new prog? Jesus, don’t bin it like that; better to say it’s dream-like, but it’s a dream from which you wake in a sweat, half-aroused, unsure as to what transpired. Wildly inventive, and pretty brilliant.