LaFaro's latest is anything but easy-listening. Is it worth the effort?
First things first – Easy Meat is anything but easy. Everything about it is difficult, in fact, from the deliberately lo-fi cover art, to the imposing 18 tracks on the album (many of which turn out to be no more than pointless skits). But since when did Northern Ireland’s favourite bunch of noise mongers really care about the casual listener?
Opening track ‘Full Tilt’ does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a galloping, two-note riff that beats the listener into submission. It’s big, it’s dumb, and it works.
It immediately segues into a recording of what sounds like frontman and lead songwriter, Jonny Black, inexplicably harassing a German, and then we’re off again. ‘Sucking Diesel’ rides another two-note riff, over which Black intones a stream of consciousness story about a night out in LaFaro-land.
It’s not the smoothest start to an album – and sound-wise, it's not a million miles away from their eponymous debut – but like many a great record before it, there’s a certain sense of separating the men from the boys here. Non-fans are unlikely to be talked around this early in the proceedings.
Black’s voice sounds rougher than ever, capable of stripping the paint off an old junkyard wreck in five seconds flat, whilst Alan Lynne's drumming is truly world-class.
Melody was never strictly the band’s strong point, and this time around it’s been thrown out of the window completely. Spoken lyrics, circular riffs and scathing solos are the order of the day. That's not to say that the songs aren’t catchy – in their own way, they are – but it’s unlikely you will find the man beside you in the queue for the bus whistling any of this bunch.
Songs like ‘Settle Petal’ and ‘Slide On’ (amongst others) are easily as good as anything the band have ever done; by proxy, as good as UK rock music gets at the minute. Nearly every 'song' on the album has a moment of sheer, unbridled genius lurking within its tortured grooves. The fact that we have to work hard to come across that moment just makes the experience more appealing.
Every time the album picks up momentum, however, it’s rudely interrupted by a blast of studio mucking about, throwaway audio nonsense and shouting. A beguiling tune like ‘Have a Word With Yourself’, for instance, which could give Queens of the Stone Age a run for their money, is sure to be followed by something like ‘Pat-a-Cake’, 36 seconds of silly noises and mucking about.
For close friends of the band, these interludes might have a certain value. For anyone not currently living in Northern Ireland, they provide a handy primer for Norn Iron slang terms. Ultimately, however, they frustrate rather than entertain.
The album proceeds in this manner – astounding songs interspersed with confounding skits, which more frequently provoke bemusement than laughter – before wrapping it up with a beautiful acoustic song, suitably entitled 'Maudlin'. The listener is left scratching their head and wondering what just happened.
Normally these types of self-indulgent long-players follow a phenomenally successful, era-defining album (think Nirvana’s In Utero, for example). LaFaro’s debut, however, only went so far in establishing the band in the increasingly crowded UK rock scene. Essentially then, one would presume, this is LaFaro making an anti-commercial statement. Easy Meat is two fingers up at The Man.
With a bit of effort and editing, however, it’s 100% plausible that LaFaro might emerge as one of the most skilled and exciting rock bands from the UK in the last ten years. One gets the impression, though, that this is something they just ain’t interested in. More power to them, I guess. One thing is for sure: I can't wait for the follow up.
Easy Meat is out October 3. Listen to the full track list on SoundCloud, where links to pre-order the album on iTunes are provided.