Album title of the year? Most probably. Salford noisy urchins Trojan Horse arrive at a canter with their second album, Fukushima Surfer Boys, announcing an eerie electronic intent with opener GRAD, an inspection of the hull of the craft while drifting through deep space that develops an anthemic heft on the back of a jagged Manzanera-esque guitar riff. This is going to be a whole different kettle of frogs to the rather splendid debut The World Turned Upside Down, methinks. You really should read that review, it’s far better written than this nonsense!
The Ebb c/w Solotron, with bass by Pete Trewevas, is the sound of a triumphant Yoshimi, having seen off the pink robots, arriving on the crest of an irradiated wave on Fukushima beach, immune to the insidious threat of gamma rays, protected purely by an unstoppable joie de vivre and a killer tune. At the end all is calm as Yoshimi surveys the destruction from an isolated vantage point on the beach, deserted except for a gaggle of young Salford surfer boys with a death wish, who greet our heroine with grins and beer. They continue in the manner of The Flaming Lips, adding 10CC as backing singers for the gloriously daft anti-austerity pop anthem How You Gonna Get By?, before Yoshimi disappears in a puff of smoke as the album lurches on down a lead-lined corridor to sample all manner of cakes, pills, and influences.
If you listen carefully during The Modern Apothecary you can hear punctured Aqualung riffs tackling Cardiacs and XTC playing ancient heavy metal while Dylan from The Magic Roundabout rolls the next one. Some of that is no doubt down to the inspired contributions of Doves’ Jimi Goodwin, and Knifeworld/Gong/Guapo guitar slinger and snooker DJ assistant Kavus Torabi. Watch you don’t put out either your knees or your neck while frugging furiously to this number. Trust me, I’m a vet, which is why I get to examine this Horse.
There are elements of almost any band you can think of in this glorious cauldron of a record, but what comes out the other end of the sausage maker is entirely and only Trojan Horse. None of these songs are pointlessly long, and not one of them meanders aimlessly, or runs out of gas halfway through, nope, they all deliver a sweet little kick up the ’arris. This is the kind of progressive rock only a punk band from a grimy uber industrial estate would make. Musically, their marvellously kitchen sink approach… there goes a bit of early Brian Eno!…combined with singers whose surprisingly otherworldly elfin tones given their wild appearance, together inescapably recalls the sci-fi oddball approach of aforementioned The Flaming Lips, but with a decidedly unique twist. You can hear modern trip hop in The Wooden Wall that gets like Karl Hyde doing the Viennese Waltz with Flying Lotus under a technicolour sky criss-crossed by commuters on flying segways.
Junk #3 and Junk #1 take us elsewhere, away from any preconceptions, reverbed skysaw guitar punctuating an odd cryptic lyric that the PR people won’t let me see. The dark and creepy Sickle Cell Orphan might well be making a serious point, but struggling as I do with lyric enunciation my interpretation will have to remain impressionistic. Whatever the gist is, I can’t tell, but I’m sure Philip K. Dick would understand. This is one of the longer numbers, and it goes through a few scripted changes in its succinct six and-a-bit minutes, and relies on deft ensemble playing rather than flash indulgence, and most importantly contains a decent hook, while obviously given its length, never over-stretches its ideas.
The burgeoning and broiling electronica that has informed the majority of this odd but beguiling record rallies once more to the fore on an admirably strange tune entitled The Shapes, which is maybe what Kraftwerk would sound like had they started in 2010. Fukushima Surfer Boys ends with the tub thumping Monodaddy, a dark alt-pop song through which the singer intones “I wanna see my daddy” in a deadpan style, reprising the earlier song of that name, and which in my mind’s eye should have a menacing video à la Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker. After all that the listener can only reflect on what a long, strange trip it’s been. I hope they take this out on the road, I’ll be there.
This band along with Knifeworld, North Atlantic Oscillation, and a few other acts this side of The Pond are taking U.K. music to new places, and to be topical, they are all surfing a small but perfectly formed resurgent wave of progressive rock. Whilst I may have listed all manner of historical pointers in this review, Trojan Horse live by the maxim that the past is a place of reference, not residence. The band’s nicely pretentious and no doubt tongue-in-cheek motto is “Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis” – “All things change and we change with them”, and you can’t say fairer than that. Not for this Horse the endless recycling of a pastoral rose-tinted past that never was under the all-pervading influence of the original prog giants, oh no. Rather they are all facing the future with a confidence that can only see great things developing, nay progressing, further down the line. Pass the nose bag, Henry!
01. GRAD (1:41)
02. The Ebb c/w Solotron (10:36)
03. How You Gonna Get By? (6:12)
04. Herbie Hancock (4:02)
05. The Modern Apothecary (6:33)
06. The Castle Of… (2:26)
07. I Wanna See My Daddy (5:14)
08. UVB-76 (2:06)
09. Fukushima Surfer Boys (3:42)
10. The Wooden Wall (3:13)
11. Junk #3 (1:58)
12. Junk #1 (3:21)
13. Sickle Cell Orphan (6:27)
14. Isotron (1:33)
15. The Shapes (7:20)
16. Monodaddy (4:53)
Total Time – 71:20
Nick Duke – Guitar, Bass, Synths, Drums, Vocals
Eden Duke – Keyboards, Synths, Bass, Vocals
Lawrence Duke – Bass, Guitar, Drums Vocals
Joe Wood – Drums
Danny the Red – Production, Drums, Synths, Keyboards, Guitar
Pete Trewevas – Bass (track 2)
Jimi Goodwin – Guitar, Vocals (track 5)
Kavus Torabi – Guitar (track 5)
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Date of Release: 13th October 2017
Trojan Horse – Facebook | Bandcamp
If you want, although I can’t imagine why, you can buy this album on cassette…what on earth is that all about?! Mind you, they do make rather wonderful if environmentally unfriendly firelighters, it has to be said.