Art Rock with Pop Sensibilities
There's a general rule of thumb that the older you get, the more jaded you become. No more so than in the world of music; where new bands try harder and harder to win your approval, but so many fall into the 'seen it all before' category. But every now and then, something drops on the mat to knock your cynical socks off, and make you realise once again just how great music is. The current ray of sunshine here at Piley Towers comes courtesy of The Millipede Engine, and their album 'Bye Bye... We're Melting', which I've been playing non stop for the last couple of weeks.
Initially released as a 'download only' album at the back-end of last year, it finally got its 'hard copy' release last month. Creating an album as accomplished as this would be a remarkable achievement for any artist, but as this is their debut album, it's even more so.
The diversity of each track is simply stunning, so much so, that you could be forgiven for initially thinking it's a compilation album. But rather cleverly, after you've heard it a few more times, themes and links start to build, and you soon realise that this is the work of two very versatile and contrasting musicians. Yes, it's clear that Brill Nudie and Honey Lane are serious music lovers, and their wide and varied influences can be spotted throughout. A journey through this album conjours up images of literally dozens of artists, but The Milepede Engine are no lazy 'cut n paste' machine, they are much too smart for that. Despite numerous bands dancing across your brain whilst you listen, you couldn't say that The Millipede Engine sound like any of them, and there is the real trick....
A snippet of bass brings Joy Division to mind, the wail of a guitar reminds you of Carlos Alomar period Bowie, a moment of dark ambient swish sees Eno, there's the faintest whiff of a 1980's Edge guitar solo, a burst of vocal has the smudged lipstick of Robert Smith all over it, and so it goes on.... Arcade Fire, Adam and the Ants, Blur, Ultravox, The Virgin Prunes, My Life Story, Syd Barrett, Killing Joke and many more are all fleetingly brought to mind. But apart from a very few exceptions (notably Bowie, The Cure and Eno) these influences are only ever really noticeable in one of the 12 tracks. Sparing use of piano, strings and brass all add to their ever-changing sound, and give this album a huge sweeping feel at times.
And as if this album isn't good enough on it's own, the limited edition physical release comes with a bonus 4 track EP ('The EP of Unconditional Love') that is every bit as good, containing 2 remixes and 2 non-album tracks. It's almost a crime to not include the 2 'new' songs on a proper full-blown album, but it certainly makes for an impressive collection of music.
Even the packaging of this release deserves a mention. Without doubt the best I've seen in decades, and reminiscent of those good old days when you'd buy a vinyl album with all sorts of nifty inserts, gifts and clever ideas inside. I can still vividly remember the excitement of repeatedly thumbing through the A4 size booklet that unexpectedly came with my early copy of Kings of the Wild Frontier! (anyone remember Elastica lifting the exact same design for their own debut album booklet some 15 years later?!).
The 2 CD's (which each come in their own separate packaging) are contained within a slightly over sized wraparound sleeve and PVC wallet. But that's not all you get.... There's an envelope containing a pre-printed 'thank you' note from the band, 5 glossy postcards (most of which are loaded with band info on the reverse), 2 postcard sized fridge magnets and a fold out containing all the lyrics. Even the cardboard mailer that it comes in has been thought out, and the nicest touch is an actual Royal Mail Millipede Engine Stamp! How cool is that?! All for just £9.99!
Art rock it certainly is, but it comes without any of the trappings that can often dog that label. It's not pretentious, over-blown or over-long (not a single track breaks the five minute barrier). Just 12 well written, multi-layered and extremely accessible songs. Pop songs for real music lovers if you will.
Like all the best albums, you get a little bit more out of 'Bye Bye... We're Melting' every time you play it. But I'm still no nearer putting this album into any category, genre or pigeon hole, and in these days of so much dumbed down, manufactured dross, I think that's a great compliment. If this isn't the 'Start the Revolution Without Me' album of the year come 31 December, I'll be shocked. Get one while you can.
The band have kindly allowed me to stream a track here for your listening pleasure: SKYSCRAPER:
Keep tuned for a Millipede Engine interview coming very shortly, and don't miss your chance to win a copy of the album right here in an exclusive competition!
You can visit the official Millipede Engine website HERE, where you can read more about the band, hear all 12 tracks streamed, and purchase a copy of the limited edition CD pack.