Wednesday 16 October 2013

Strumpets - Rubies & Ruffians

Album review by

Accents in music can be an amazing and powerful thing. Just look at the impact on the early career of Liverpudlian John Peel when he arrived in America at the height of Beatlemania, it certainly opened a few doors when he whipped out his best scouse accent for numerous radio interviews. It's often been said that accents from certain areas of Scotland seem made for indiepop (but that could also be the other way round). Strumpets, despite that particularly English sounding name, are from Belgium, with their founder being a Argentinian. So accented vocals are to be expected. What's curious here is that, unlike other Belgian bands, the voice sounds Welsh a fairly regular intervals, and with their experimental style of psych-pop/indie then token comparisons to Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and early Super Furry Animals are perhaps inevitable. Obvious maybe, but they don't half fit.

This isn't the case with the Belgian accent in general; take dEUS for example (members of whom guested on Strumpets' 2010 debut 'Hello Strumpets'), they sound nothing alike. Is it a Flemish/French thing? It's not a Spanish accent as the Argentinian connection may suggest. Or an anomaly? Really it doesn't matter, but it works to their advantage. 'Hollow Dusty Hall' compares favourably to the SFA reference, even fitting in some of their Beach Boys-style harmonies; the wavering dreampop of the title-track and highlight 'Centurial Jinx' is all over the shop in terms of accent and this actually adds to its attraction, and 'In A Pallor Dream' completes this melodic and woozy trio. 'Mad In Ivory' takes a while to get going but when it does you don't want it to stop, and it also encompasses the reason I've made such a big deal about accents.

Aside from this there are other moments of expert psych-pop songcraft. Single 'Tamara' works brilliantly with the lovable female backing that makes for a great chorus; 'Kinetic Twins' is almost irresistibly lovely and another stand-out with a '60s vibe; the livelier, classic-sounding 'Without Brakes' is also difficult to knock, and so is 'Void Love' which could have been an album highlight from one of the better records of the Britpop era (possibly the Supergrass debut as a close cousin to 'Sofa Of My Lethargy'). There's the occasional track that's heavier going, but nothing that's not rectified by a few extra plays ('Alas Descartes', 'Gargantuan Lasting Love' for it's first half). 'The Agent Of Her Heart' closes the album in the manner of a modern guitar tune that can't quite make up its mind whether or not it's a continental pop song from the 1960s, but as a rule, 'Rubies & Ruffians' is a solid enough listen with very few dips in quality, made all the better for the often unusual vocal intonation.

Strumpets' website

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