Regular readers might recall that we gave a gushingly fulsome review to Wartoad’s debut album and London live performance last year, and now the band are back. Sort of. Wartoad, it seems, is dead – long live The Imbeciles, which may be the same band (who had a somewhat revolving line-up) with a new name, or may be a new project for Al Dijon, Butch Dante and Calvin Voltz. Or perhaps both. We might question the wisdom of changing your name after just one album (though it will perhaps soon to be hypocritical of us if we did) and grumble that for the anally-retentive record collector, it somewhat buggers up their alphabetical record collection… but we know that bands have to change their names for all manner of reason – legal or otherwise. Best to just let it go.
In any case, it would seem that there is a method to the madness. As the band themselves explain, their 2018 tour made them realise that they were not satisfied being a spright-ahead punk band – not that they were, incidentally, but that had obviously been the intention. Wartoad was a fascinatingly and pleasingly schizophrenic musical affair, and if there is an obvious difference between the two projects, it might be that The Imbeciles have a sightly more consistent sound – though. Across the fifteen short, sharp tracks on this album, the band plough a decidedly and consciously post-punk, no-wave, experimental furrow, and that’s fine with us. This isn’t pastiche of a sound – musically and production-wise, you could easily imagine this having been recorded in 1979, but any idea of this being ‘retro’ should be put out of your mind. It’s definitely the sound of that era, but there’s nothing actually wrong in that – stripping back the over-produced, overly slick sound of modern recording, this is an analogue treat that might bring to mind many a band of that time – Joy Division, Devo and – as we spotted in the last album – anarchs-hippies Here and Now – but doesn’t actually sound like anyone else.
the aggressive, punchy tracks here – from opener Panic through Medicine and Decider on to closer Paranoia – don’t have the individuality of the Warted album, but they work more effectively as a whole. The English accent of most of the lead vocals (I’m assuming that’s Mr Dante) contrast nicely with the American voices elsewhere as lead and backing, while the music has an angular funk to it – guitars sharp enough to slice through rubber, drum beats that are off-kilter and bass rhythms that look you in the eye and defy you not to dance. At points, stabs of harsh electronica and industrial noise bleed into the sounds too, resulting in a record that almost seems to spit in the face of current commercial sensibilities.
If The Imbeciles have been working out where they are going as they’ve gone along, rather than having a carefully worked out career plan from day one, then more power to them – this is the result or an organic development rather than a contrived reinvention, and the experimentation that has brought them to this point is evident on every point of this album. As ever, the band are shrouding themselves in mystery – who are those masked men? – and are content to let the music to the talking. When it’s this solid, why shouldn’t they?