My first introduction to Schnauser came one night in a Bristol pub a few years ago where they were supporting Knifeworld. I was impressed by their musical presentation, style and performance, a great live band. They now present Irritant, their follow up to 2014’s Protein For Everyone, on the excellent Bad Elephant Music label.
Schnauser began as a solo project for Alan Strawbridge after the breakup of The Lucky Bishops, releasing three albums, Kill All Humans (2005), The Missing Link (2009) and The Sound of Meat (2010), before slowly evolving into being a band for two further albums, Where Business Meets Fashion (2013) and the aforesaid Protein For Everyone, list such influences as Soft Machine (with Robert Wyatt), Yes (with Bill Bruford), Egg, XTC and The Kinks, to name a few, and describe their music in these terms:-
OK, I think we got that, but what do they sound like? ‘Unique’, is the answer. There are not many bands that can carry off music with such humour and vitality. To my ageing ears I can hear influences from the Bonzos and Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, as well as Canterbury prog and ’60s psychedelia. That said, they have created a sound of their own which is eclectic with that odd British style of humour with happy and jovial melodies, all put to odd and sometimes wonky tempos. For this album the band have added Dino Christodoulou on saxophone and his contributions have certainly given something extra to their sound.
Things kick off with the lively Spiele Mit Katzen, which according to my translator means ‘Games with Cats’. The sax and drums give a bright start which leads to an almost funky mid-section before the main theme returns. With a song about a parasite that affects pigs, Chinese Brainworm (Taeria Solium), and an extract from the Roobarb and Custard theme during Re-mortgaging the Nest of Hairs, variety is the order of the day. Fail Better is a wonderful slow paced song with well placed saxophone and guitar throughout.
The instrumental Hypertension has some great changes in pace as it progresses, towards the end developing a more pounding rhythm which appears to reflect the feeling one might get when suffering from this condition. The tracks that many people are sure to identify with are Sorry, You Were Out and Have You Got PPI?, the latter dealing with the extremely annoying phenomenon of cold calling with regard to potential accidents and the fact that the recipient of the call only picked up due to being lonely, hanging on and proceeding to outline the details at great length. Oddly while listening to this track my phone rang and I picked up without checking the number only to find someone asking if I had been in an accident. I began to laugh at which point they hung up, sadly before I could quote the wonderful line “my plimsolls were faulty, loose at the rear”. Oh well, one for next time!
On the two longer tracks, A New Atmosphere and The Monday Club, the band get the chance to stretch themselves, further exploring their unique sound. The playing throughout is excellent, Jasper Williams’ drumming and Holly McIntosh’s bass work holding everything together, responding with ease to the odd tempos. Dino’s saxophone has added a lot of texture to complement Alan’s guitar, neither over dominating proceedings, while Duncan Gammon provides fine keyboards that add to the overall feel and atmosphere of the songs. The album was mixed and mastered by Gaz Williams, who also produced with assistance from Duncan.
This is a top quality album, full of invention, ideas and excellent song writing that all goes to make for a fun listen. If you are prepared to get out of your comfort zone and listen to something new and interesting I wholeheartedly recommend this album, it’s an enjoyable and top quality release from a band that deserves to be more widely heard.
01. Spiele Mit Katzen (4:22)
02. Chinese Brainworm (Taeria Solium) (4:48)
03. Re-Morgaging The Nest Of Hairs (4:12)
04. Sorry, You Were Out… (1:22)
05. Have You Got PPI? (4:44)
06. How About A Kiss? (4:06)
07. Fail Better (6:36)
08. Hypertension (4:15)
09. A New Atmosphere (8:23)
10. The Monday Club (7:44)
11. Speile-Jangle (2:17)
Total Time – 52:49
Alan Strawbridge – Guitars, Vocals
Dino Christodoulou – Tenor & Soprano Saxophones, Vocals
Duncan Gammon – Keyboards, Vocals
Holly McIntosh – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Jasper Williams – Drums, Vocals
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 9th June 2017