Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Millipede Engine

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.

EXTRAS

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.

Piley

22 comments:

Dan said...

Well, you've sold me on it!

Sounds like an intriguing album and I think I'll have to get my wallet out. Love the track that you've included and I know exactly what you mean - it sounds very familiar in lots of ways, but manages to be new and vibrant at the same time.

Love the idea of the packaging too. Over the course of the last couple of years, I've moved to almost exclusively purchasing downloadable versions of albums, due mostly to my impatience at waiting for physical products to arrive through the letterbox. But, making the effort to produce a package like you've described encourages me to fork out for a proper physical copy. To paraphrase a movie quote, "You had me on fridge magnets". ;o)

I'll be keeping an eye on these fellas. Thanks for the tip off, chief.

Mondo said...

You've nailed the tone of album P. It's a peach and almost cinematic - sort of prog-pop. It's a great bundle , and a return to the tactile experience of vinyl..

Skyscraper is the killer track, although it's a cert others from 'Bye Bye' will be appearing on our end of year 'best of' comps..

John Medd said...

Skyscraper sounds big and full of bombast. I'm guessing that when they play live they take no prisoners. Thanks for the heads up as I think you're meant to say at times like this.

I love albums that come with 'packaging.' I know it's not very green but what can you do? A simple slip sleeve just wouldn't cut the mustard here, would it?

Piley said...

Dan/JM - Delighted that it's caught both your imaginations.

For me, this is a real hark back to the glory days of 'record collecting'. I have been collecting now for almost 40 years (yes, really!), but there was a special buzz in the late 70's, 80's and (perhaps a little less so) early 90's. The packaging and general presentation of an album\single was every bit as important as the content back then. I loved that 'complete experience', and the obvious care that went into it.

But like everything these days, corners are cut and trimmed to save money\make more prifit, but always to the detriment of the customer (mags scrimping on cheap papers, hotels taking away your complimentary biscuit etc etc).

So it was a real delight to receive such a wonderful 'full package' once more, and it simply oozes with the love and care that's gone into it. No major label would ever have allowed it, so top marks all round.

Mondo - A real cracker isn't it? And one that has really provided a much needed injection of enthusiasm.

P

Just Jacqui said...

I'm sold purely on your enthusiasm for it! Sounds like an exciting little bundle of joy.
Having heard the track you have here I definately want to hear more!!

E F RICE said...

Oh that's what they sound like ! Remember you telling me about this band down the pub a few weeks back. I like Skyscraper and I have had a scoot through the streamed tracks on their site, doesn't seem to be a weak track and I am loving those bass lines. I will be another one with the wallet out soon !

Must say what an excellent look the their website has by the way, love the player with the steam coming out !

Martin said...

Love the track you have on here. Like everyone else who's commented on here I'm going to have to check out the rest of the tracks. Doncha just love a bit of packaging? Takes me back to the good old days when it was difficult to lose your new purchase down the back of the sofa or because of a disk crash.

Gary Fowles said...

Hmm not overly sold on Skyscraper, but still like what I'm hearing. I'll have to listen to more by them. Interesting for sure.

It's all about the music isn't it? Except of course it's not, I'm tempted just since I love 7"'s in plastic bags that have stickers. I love it when people make an effort. I'll have me another listen and see.

Piley said...

JJ - You spotted it??!! Yes, I have been rather taken with this album now you mention it!

E.F Rice - I agree, the website has a great look to it, and I love the way it navigates sideways!!

Martin - you can hear all the tracks over on their website if you fancy trying more.

Gary - because every track is so different, it was hard to single just one out to put here. Also it perhaps works best alongside the other 11 tracks. But you may find it a grower.

P

Gary Fowles said...

That's what I was thinking Ian. I like to hear an album from start to finish, the way God intended. :D

Ishouldbeworking said...

It's a good solid sound, and kudos to them for having the imagination to put that fab packaging together, but I just can't get past his voice - he sounds like Hurricane Smith! (to me. This is entirely subjective. I fully "own my stuff.")

I'll give it a couple of hours and try again.

Piley said...

thanks ISBW!! Maybe check out a few of the other toons, and incredibly, even the vocals are quite varid.... You may find one or two that are less Hurricane Smith! ;-)

P

The Polyvinyl Craftsmen said...

Gonna have a listen now.

New drunken podcast available today, with songs about body parts, murder and fighting. Check it out - http://polyvinylcraftsmen.blogspot.com/

Might see you at The Railway on Sunday?

Heff said...

Hey, like what's happenin' & shit ?

Piley said...

Cheers PVC, let me know what you think. Am way behind on your podcasts, I can't keep up with your output rate! Yeah, all being well, should be there for the Dave Woodcock gig.

Heff??!! A blast from the bloggin past! I assumed Obama had got too much for you, & you & Donna had dropped out of society?! You are stil alive then?! Great to hear from you!

P

Martin said...

Well, the deed is done. Credit card details have been entered and the submit button clicked. Just waiting on Mr. Postman now.

marmiteboy said...

I was reminded of Boyswonder strangely Piley. I like what I have heard so far.

Piley said...

Martin - great stuff, hope you enjoy. Let us kniw what you think of the whole package.

Thanks Marmite. There's lots going on in there, not heard Boys Wonder myself, but will keep an extea ear out now!

P

phsend said...

Cheers mate. Had a chance for a proper listen now - really like this album ...and I haven't liked anything new since 1987 :)

Piley said...

Wow! PHsend in first liking of new music in almost a quarter of a century shocker! I'll ring the papers now!! ;-)

thisnighthasopenedmyeyes said...

Love it, love it love it. Simple as.

Rednik said...

I too heard this album for the first time the other week - awesome album - here's my tuppences worth below...

The Millipede Engine
Bye Bye... We're Melting


I'm listening without trying to disphere the lyrics too much. I prefer to do that later. Every time I listen to something new I can't help but make associations with other artists and songs. Then later that kind of disappears.

This review is based on the fourth hearing via speakers. Again I hear stuff different in the car or via headphones. So listening via computer speakers. Highly quality, expensive ones mind you.

I get and can hear feelings of Bowie, Placebo, Suede, TV On The Radio, Japan, Roxy, Devo, Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, Arcade Fire, OMD, Gabrels, oh and that Bowie geezer.

Overall in music reviewer standard ratings I give it 4/5 stars.


01. Fifteen Forty Three
The beginning and end obviously has a Bowie 'Heathen' feel which works really well, then I absolutely love the opening riff and bass. The build up part just before vocals start reminds me of something I can't quite place at the moment, not sure if Bowie? but sounds great. I can't stop whistling at the opening... I should rephrase that it sounds a bit pervy doesn't it? The vocals are excellent throughout, love the vocal harmonies and backing as well. Piano works really well and the lead guitar fill ins. Nice chorus. Easily my favourite track so far. 9.5/10

02. Angry Aeroplanes
Totally Placebo guitar opening riff... I like it... me like Suedesque vocals... Lead guitar is awesome. Lifts and soars really well. All fits together perfectly. Excellent. 9/10

03. Magic Robot
Nice Bowiesque Hunky Dory/hours opening riff. Nice use of horny horns. Again fits together really well. 7/10

04. The Cup Of Unconditional Love
Bowie's Untitled No.1 and 5:15 The Angels Have Gone both come to mind - dreamy and floating on water. Good drumming and bass. Good vocals and lead vocals hit some really nice notes, there's some good breathing going on there. 8/10

05. The Harpy
Really beautifully sung. Love the chorus. Nice lead guitar after 2nd chorus. I can hear parts of Boys Keep Swinging and Be My Wife on both piano and bass towards the end. The song is really well constructed from beginning to the end. 9/10

06. Skyscraper
Love the vocal opening and closing. Nice chorus. I like parts of it, but not all. 6/10

07. Killing Time
The New York Dolls and Iggy tamed down into soft retro glam punk. My least favourite so far. Sounds kind of dated but that's probably because of my age, but I like the chorus. I don't feel the horns fit in with the song. Not too keen on lyrics. 5/10

08. 1001 Nacht (Objektsexualitat)
Like parts of this. Need to listen more. 6/10

09. The Man Who Gave Everything
Sung well. 'I will take you on the sea - honestly' it's a really great pun. Love that lyric. I guarantee that Bowie would nick that. Like it but not keen on the OMD 3 note synth that runs throughout, that only works for me when the strings come in at the end. Strings are beautiful. Maybe I need to hear this more. It's a grower, kinda catchy and hopefully the thought of OMD will eventually disappear. 7/10

10. Home
Again nice guitar, especially the beginning. Reminds me of early Roxy. Me like quite a lot. Hang on... f**k I just heard a Bryan Ferry warble going on, take it out immediately! Put me right off! ;) LOL. Nice lyrics. 8/10

11. The Planet Tasters
David Sylvian opening vocal, but then changes. Drumming is excellent. Me like lyrics. Sung really well. Absolutely love the female vocal ending. Who is that noisy f**k? ;) LOL. Lead guitar at end is f**king great, reminds me of Reeves before he joined Tin Machine! I like this more and more each time I hear it. In fact I shall listen to it again. My second favourite track at the moment. 9/10

12. Bye Bye... We're Melting
Love it. Perfect closing track. 9/10