From the Deepest, Darkest Depths of Olde London Town, the first release of new material from the 16-limbed beast of depravity that is Thumpermonkey emerges blinking into the light. Has it really been 5 years since Sleep Furiously? It has.
There are only four tracks on Electricity but it’s a gloriously compact statement of visceral intent, jumping around like a rabbit being zapped with the charged particles of the title. It bodes well for the next long player, due sometime in 2018.
But what’s it about?
Why, Dear Reader, nothing more mundane than the electrification of Mesopotamia, as perceived by Victorian scientific-adventurers.
[From Babylon Electrified by Albert Bleunard (1889)]
The above work was rediscovered by Thumpermonkey’s Michael Woodman, via an illustration from Bleunard’s book in the digital archives of The British Library, showing “a pith-helmeted Englishman being atomized by technology that he hoped would transform the canals of the Euphrates”, and thus, the theme for Electricity “echoes that of the distant past – the luminous magnificence of human foolishness.”
There aren’t many clues to what to expect in the song titles, Electricity picking and choosing from sweeping genre references and then putting them through the Thumpermonkey blender. Some are not hard to spot, it would be a good trick to do a recording of this sort without dropping in even the smallest hint of King Crimson, but this is tempered with a smidgen of Cardiacs and a sprinkle of William Drake, elements of minimalism and big dollops of metallic welly – but only where it makes the most impact.
The chiming intro and angelic vocals of Garmonbozia slide towards the sinister on a black rhythm. The guitars interlock while the brooding tension of the rhythm section builds, Woodman’s vocals riding the glowering storm. It’s KC with a different twist as baroque textures creep in. There are pauses for breath amidst the angst and this is a beautifully staged piece, full of beauty as well as the terrifying pointyness of latter day Krimson. If this doesn’t break bones live I’ll be very surprised. Tzizimime, the lead track for the promotional campaign, again broods with venom waiting in the wings, ready to pounce. The stabs from the rhythm section are wonderful and there is the feeling of a grave threat about to be unleashed, which it is near the end with pounding rhythms and slashing guitars. Woodman deploys his best choir boy vocal and it’s an unsettling and edgy thing, but in a wonderfully controlled way, the band keeping their powder dry for when it really counts, and the shots hit their mark every time.
There’s another KC-esque intro to This Is Not A Fire, but it would be a mile off target to label the band as any kind of clone. It’s complex yet accessible with Woodman’s voice hooking the listener in. The pace and density ebbs away for the delicate mid-section before returning with building intensity, staccato guitar stabs integrating with stop/start bass textures and pounding drums.
Finally the classy piano opening to Woadscrivened. The darkness of the preceding tracks is still evident, the voice taking it forward as the piano settles into a repetitive form. When the band kicks in it’s big, bold and with a well-honed cutting edge. Thumpermonkey are a visceral live act, as I witnessed in London last year, and at the Summer’s End festival in 2013. As a unit they gel beautifully and Woodman has the voice to carry the pieces to otherworldly dimensions. It all finishes with a magnificent crescendo of voices and instruments, easing away. Bloody marvellous.
Job well done once again. Thumpermonkey are one of the most interesting and classiest of the “difficult” bands around at the moment, but underneath it all they are not that difficult, the structures lead the listener through, pointing them to interesting and unusual asides along the way. The vocals are the key but the heavy lifting comes from the instruments and the 20-minutes running time just leaves you wanting more, evidencing my personal view that, in classic Goldilocks terms, ‘LP length’ is juuuust right – 20 mins? Too short; 60 mins? Too long; 40 mins? Bingo! Here’s to the next album, which I am almost dribbling in anticipation of.
01. Garmonbozia (4:27)
02. Tzizimime (3:35)
03. This Is Not A Fire (5:04)
04. Woadscrivened (5:58)
Total Time – 19:08
Michael Woodman – Guitar, Lead Vocals
Rael Jones – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Sam Warren – Bass, Backing Vocals
Ben Wren – Drums, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 13th October 2017