Well on first listen I wasn’t too sure I was going to like this. There’s nothing wrong with the first couple of tracks, but they are fairly straightforward DIY alt-rockers played at broadly similar pace and with broadly similar arrangements.
The third tune is a faux-saccharine sneer, and a bit of a surprise, truth be told, but it got me listening a lot more closely and that can only be a good thing. It is also the song which signals that you are getting into something rather more interesting than ‘just’ lyrically sharp indie rock.
David Cronenberg’s Wife are what I suppose you would have to call bastions of the UK antifolk scene, although there isn’t anything particularly folky about most of their stuff. I first heard about them a good few years back when the excellent My Ukrainian Girlfriend was popping around my playlists for a good wee while.
I have to confess that since then I’ve rather taken my eye off the ball, but this album is a welcome reminder of how good this band can be. I was warned, when this promo material was sent out, that some of the songs might be just a tad close to the bone in the wake of the Jimmy Saville scandal, and tunes like the Pied Piper of Maidenhead are excellent, but still draw a wince, even today.
I have always thought of Antifolk as being a bit more of an attitude than a particular sound, and in that sense you can see the connection with David Cronenberg’s Wife. This album has its tender moments, I guess, and it has a conscience for sure, but the whole thing is delivered with an attitude which morphs from sneer to snarl depending on the intensity of the song itself, so despite not being shockingly loud or dissonant there’s a real sense of needle to it, a real edge which produces quite a visceral reaction.
Having said that, it’s not like they don’t write good, hummable tunes. The majority of the album rattles along at an insistent gallop and most of it is genuinely head-nodding stuff (don’t blame the band, that’s as close as I usually get to actual dancing). Between the nasal vocals, though, and a sound which seems to pay no heed whatsoever to the hipster mores of the day, I can’t see this lot blooming to global superstardom anytime soon. But this is a really good album, with shitloads of character, awesome tunes and plenty to gain from a closer listen, too. I wish more bands were like this.