Review of Ratworld Album by Menace Beach

A close inspection of the departure boards of Leeds airport reveals that flights to America are hard to come by: the only destination served is New York, and even then infrequently compared to some of the more metropolitan hubs. This doesn't help explain why Menace Beach - who are from the West Yorkshire city via Derby - sound like they've been gorging on Riot Grrrl mavens Bikini Kill, or glugging up the lo-fi of fellow Yanks Le Tigre.

Menace Beach Ratworld Album

Not that the regular Beachers - guitarist/keyboardist Liza Violet and singer Ryan Needham - sound  like they care, as much of 'Ratworld' is held together by curled-lip spunk and basement rifferola that belongs as much to Burley Park as it does to it's less famous counterpart, Central. Produced by fellow Loiner-maverick Hookworms supremo MJ (who also plays, along with members of Sky Larkin and Pulled Apart By Horses) their resolutely DIY aesthetic in the wrong hands could be a minefield of derivation, but to everyone's credit they manage to bottle enough psy-kookiness in the thirteen tracks here to hold even the most wayward of attentions.

Even better, when 'Ratworld''s good, it's groovy-good; the feedback squawls and scribbled guitar crests of 'Lowtalkin'' are genuinely malign, whilst opener 'Come On Give Up' is a slacker anthem in the making, from its low slung chug-riffing to slightly dipsy chorus, dissolute chops and fuzz a go-go. The duo share vocal duties, with Needham's slightly less buzzing pipes taking over on the likes of 'Tastes Like Medicine' and 'Dig It Up', the latter a superbly woozy, weird and wonderful head screw up that underlines the raging pop beast that constantly prowls just under the surface of their best work.

Not that the genre hopping stops there. On 'Blue Eye', the tone morphs into something far more akin to shoe/nu-gaze, the ponderous sludge unfurling like a thousand floating points, before eventually collapsing in on itself with an oddly cosmic finale. By comparison length-wise, it's an epic compared to some of the songs it bumps noses with, but for their knack for brevity Menace Beach clearly don't lack invention. 'Ratworld''s only real drawback in fact is that they don't seem to know how to really nail what it is they want to be, be it snarky Pebbles-schtick (as on the title track), dreamy retro pedal jockeys ('Pick Out The Pieces') or heavy lidded opiate miners ('Closer Fortune Teller'). In the end, predictably, they end up being something in between.

Late last year, it all got similarly weird, identity-wise, via Happyness, a trio from London who sounded like they were from some rad campus somewhere on their début 'Weird Little Birthday'. That became your classic slow burner (or slow burning classic) and there's a chance that 'Ratworld', just as strung out and phase-shifted American in demeanour, could repeat the dose. Menace Beach had better start to cash in those Airmiles.  


Andy Peterson

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