This debut album from InTechnicolour has been a struggle for me to review, for what is possibly a strange reason. While back when I was young (yes, a long, long, long time ago) it was fairly normal to know well two or three songs before hearing an album, that’s now a very rare occurrence indeed for me. If anything, I try to avoid hearing anything from an album before buying it. That is to say, I’ll happily sample the tracks through Bandcamp or Spotify, but I’m unlikely to listen to any track in full. It’s purely an exercise in working out whether or not I want to put my money down. But I knew two of the songs from Big Sleeper prior to its release. The first was all the way back in 2017, and I don’t think I even knew it was being released as a single ahead of an album.
So why is this a problem? I guess it’s not really, but because I was already so familiar with those two tracks they stick out – just as I now remember singles sticking out from albums when I was younger. Not having any great familiarity with any song puts them all on an even basis. But any greater familiarity can make singles seem greater than the album tracks that surround them – when they may in fact not be. Of course, it’s all subjective, but how many people do you know who play only the singles from an album, or turn the volume up for those songs? And, just like albums of old, Big Sleeper is front-loaded with the singles that preceded its arrival. (Luckily I managed to avoid listening to the most recent single because I had finally cottoned onto the fact that there was actually an album forthcoming.)
The good thing about starting an album with a single, though, is that singles are usually chosen for the impact they have, and Miami Funk definitely makes an impact and starts the album with intent. Not just intent, but intensity. When the beat kicks in just shy of half a minute in, you know you’re in for a ride, and you know that you’re in for a band steeped in the big, heavy riffs of stoner groove. However, as the album progresses, Big Sleeper shows that InTecnhicolour are far from sticking to just the one sound. There is post-rock, alt-rock/grunge and shoegaze in the mix, as well as the classic stoner sound.
But if the first track might evoke influence from Kyuss, the second (and most recent single) is definitely Queens of the Stone Age. This is the only song that gives me some trouble on the album. Not because I don’t like it, oh no! This song is an absolute belter! It’s addictively catchy, and if there is one song on the album that’s an earworm, it’s Under the Sun. If there’s one song I find myself singing the chorus to at odd times of the day or night, it’s this one. But it just feels somewhat out of place on the album. It’s no better or worse than a lot of the other tracks, but it just sounds too different. A great single, but not (for me) such a great album track, and I excised it from the tracklisting when I ripped the CD onto my iPod. It’s still on my iPod, but on its own, rather than as part of the album.
So, on my iPod, Miami Funk (the second song I ever heard from the band) leads straight into Shaker (the first song I heard, and the first single released, all the way back in 2017). Shaker grabbed me by the balls back then, and it remains one of my absolute favourite songs by InTechnicolour – if not my overall favourite. Mate, this is such a cracking tune! It reminds me a lot of the alternative music coming out from Australia in the late ’90s and early ’00s. It’s slow and sludgy and beautiful. It also segues so perfectly into the title track, if you’re not paying attention you might not even notice. Another huge favourite for me. It’s faster-paced than Shaker, and yet gloomier, and more uneasy. The drumming is unrelenting, and the riffs wash over in heavy waves.
The vocals are superb throughout the album, with Tobie Anderson utilising a range of differing styles throughout – but I particularly like his vocals on Gallon Man. The contrast of his cleanest sounding vocals over some of the dirtiest instrumentation is pretty damn cool. If it’s not Tobie’s vocals you notice, then it’ll probably be Vlad Matveikov’s bass, which drives the track heavily and relentlessly forward, and eventually into Lend Me A Crushed Ear, which comes at just the right time. Individually speaking, this is probably the least impressive song on the album, but after considerable bruising (no wonder I have a crushed ear), this provides an almost necessary breather. I suspect this track may frustrate some listeners, but I love the change in intensity, and it’s definitely not a song I’d want to have been left off the album.
Of course, the breather doesn’t last long, and we’re straight back into the action with Doomer. For some reason, on the Bandcamp site these tracks are listed in the opposite order, with Crushed Ear following Doomer. I tried listening in that order, but I far prefer the flow of the order on the CD. In fact, the sequence of Doomer, Slow Moth and Tortoise is my absolute favourite on the album, even if individually the songs are not necessarily my favourites. These three songs provide a perfect comedown and conclusion to an absolutely incredible trip.
Slow Moth is actually one of my three favourite tracks from the album (the other two being Shaker and the title track), and the first time I listened to the album I was disappointed that it was not the final track. It just seemed like the perfect closing number. It’s so slow and lush and beautiful. I could listen to this song over and over and over and over again. The slower pieces like this are so gorgeously atmospheric, even as the intensity is ramped up, before fading away. And the fade-out initially did seem a perfect way to end the album.
But as much as I might have taken a while to warm to the actual closing track, Tortoise, I really can’t fault it. There’s nowhere else this song could have fitted, and this will probably be the favourite track for a lot of listeners. Its more than ten-minute length gives ample opportunity to build layers of sound, and although it is not as instantly engaging as some of the other songs, repeated listens endear it more and more. The slow strums and feedback which provide a lengthy introduction to the song are eventually enhanced by some lovely low-key vocals, before all the building intensity bursts into a triumphant and glorious sound.
While I’m sure Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age are influences, as mentioned, I hear all manner of different bands. Not necessarily influences, nor even the band necessarily sounding like them, so much as the music is reminiscent to me of (in alphabetical order): Amplifier, Baroness, Cult of Luna, Deftones, My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden. If you like any of those bands, it’s worth giving this album a go. I can see this being one of my favourite releases for 2020, which is something I would never have expected to say about any stoner album (as it’s not generally a genre that particularly grabs me or moves me). Big Sleeper rocks!
01. Miami Funk (3:44)
02. Under the Sun (3:19)
03. Shaker (4:57)
04. Big Sleeper (3:43)
05. Gallon Man (7:04)
06. Lend Me a Crushed Ear (3:12)
07. Doomer (4:41)
08. Slow Moth (6:01)
09. Tortoise (10:26)
Total Time – 46:07
Tobie Anderson – Vocals
Dave Jackson – Guitar
Elliot Tatler – Guitar
Vlad Matveikov – Bass
Mark Roberts – Drums