Warm Brains return with glorious second album
Rory Attwell is a legend in certain circles. Not only was he part of the amazing indie noise pop trio Test Icicles, whose 2005 debut album was a musical equivalent of a slap in the face, but he has also produced for the likes of The Hundredth Anniversary, Tyrannosaurus Dead, The Vaccines, Let’s Wrestle, Towns, Childhood, Kid Wave and Yuck. While some of these bands might not be as well-known as the others, their music is just as exciting and exquisite. Now Attwell has released his second album Big Wow, under the Warm Brains pseudonym.
Languid Tarmac kicks things off with a hypnotic guitar riff. As the song progresses a wall of distorted guitars, pounding drums and pulsating bass is interwoven behind the vocals. If there was ever a question about Attwell’s credentials as a musician, this answers them. The song is tight, lean and incredibly catchy. This motif carries on for the rest of the album. White Monitor Screens is more melodic, and slightly slower than the opener, but it isn’t any less effective in stirring the listeners emotions through evocative lyrics and melancholic melody. Bewildered changes the script, by sounding starker, more menacing and generally being chocked full of brooding malaise. The main riff is searing and has the capacity to bore right through you. While it never reaches the levels of noise and confusion as the Test Icicles, it is reminiscent of their debut, but more controlled and calculated. It’s one of the stand out tracks on Big Wow.
The new few songs could be called the Blur suite, due to the acclivity guitar riffs and the vocal phrasing and patterns showing the banality of modern life in the UK. Another Queue at the Coinstar could easily be Sing II. The detuned piano coupled with thin mercury sounding guitars and the chugging beat all conjure up golden age Blur. As the album progresses and draws near its conclusion, the music gets more fractured. Braising in the Sun could easily fit into a quirky indie film due to its ramshackle feel and double time guitars. Pink Blackpool Rock could easily be a soundtrack to a low key stag do. Its oozes debauchery £2.50 pints in back street pubs. The Islandman, another stand out track, is more morose than anything that has come before it. There are flourishes of Nick Drake in the lyrics and the self-repeating guitar riff is nigh on perfect. Is the final song (We Always Quake at Plans of Nigel) a reference to XTC’s classic Making Plans for Nigel, or a dig at Nigel Farage?
Big Wow is a hugely enjoyable album and should be included on many end of year lists, due to its inventiveness and dextrous production. The only real downside is, at times, it feels like a showreel of Attwell’s abilities not only as a gifted songwriter, but as a producer. It’s almost as if he’s saying “You want balls to the wall? I can do that” “You want poignant, check this out” and “If you want it all to sound all quirky and angular, like a Wes Anderson film, look no further”. While I dislike making sweeping statements, I will make an exception, this is an album that pretty much everyone could find something to enjoy, and shows why Attwell is in such demand for this abilities behind the mixing desk. Let’s hope that he finds some more free time to record the third instalment of the Warm Brains saga soon rather than later.