Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Album Review: Scumbag Philosopher – It Means Nothing So It Means Nothing
Label: Words On Music
With It Means Nothing So It Means Nothing Scumbag Philosopher have set themselves up for some pretty easy digs. If these nine post-punk influenced songs missed the mark or failed to live up to their pretensions then it'd be all so easy to say that It Means Nothing simply means nothing.
That's not the case thankfully, and even though Scumbag Philosopher's influences are worn very clearly on their sleeves their music feels different and demonstrates a strong sonic identity. With the sarcastic and snarled spoken vocals here's going to be inevitable comparisons to The Fall, whilst musically the strictly tight guitar riffs and repetition recalls as much Wire as anyone else. If not for the lyrics it'd be very easy to mistake SP for an unearthed forgotten band.
However, as they attack suburban pseudo-philosophers ('God Is Dead So I Listen To Radiohead'), web 2.0 ('Social Networking Site') and the concept of celebrity ('Heroes At Home') it's more than apartment which decade they exist in. If there's any worry in yr mind that these concepts will be matched only with po-faced-ness and a bitter after-taste then you need not fear. These are delt with with dollops of dark humour and a penchant for rhymes that recalls MJ Hibbett.
Occasionally it's hard to know exactly who or what Scumbag Philosopher are getting at however. 'I Like Sums' for example details examples of obsessive mathematical behaviour whilst the cyclical repetitive post-punk backing gives off the fug of a post-industrial city. Repeat listens are necessary to scratch the surface on what initially feels over-simple. In a word – baffling. And similarly it's hard to know how to take closer 'On The Shortwave'. A love-letter to obsolete formats, it seems honest. If there's sarcasm present it's hard to detect. "I still buy records. Can't let vinyl down" could be as much a manifesto for the PoP underground as any other lyric this year.
'Isolation' is more typical from what we'd expect from a Gang of Four and Wire influenced four piece. Keeping to under three minutes (the whole album is actually pretty short) it offsets the abrasive guitars with a quite backing vocal from drummer Anne Reekie that feels at drastic odds with the lead-talking from Grant Madden.
Still, as great as 'Isolation' is it is going to be 'God Is Dead So I Listen To Radiohead' that SP are going to known for at this time in their career. Like Art Brut's 'Formed A Band' it sets the sonic trademark for the group whilst delivering something of a manifesto. By being staunchly anti-consumerist it shows up the hypocritical practices of a certain breed of music fan who believes themselves to be a revolutionary. With lyrics that include “I've got a will to power, that's why I don't shower” (spoken of course from the point of view of the song's character) SP show up a certain type of Radiohead fan to be no different from the crusty dinosaur rock fans that punk sought to replace.
If there's one mis-fire on It Means Nothing So It Means Nothing it comes in the form of 'Social Network Site'. It's difficult to attack something as popular with a younger generation without coming of as a curmudgeonly old-timer, and by using MySpace as the main frame of reference for the deconstruction (“I've got a friend called Tom, He runs a big dot com. He Really is a mate, He's top of my top eight”) it feels dated even if the lyrics are sharp and humorous.
But the press release does state that Scumbag Philosopher are proudly un-hip and Keep Pop Loud would be hard pressed to argue on that front. By going so far against the grain and risking vitriol from mistaken Radiohead fans Scumbag Philosopher risk being true modern day punks and therefore are a band to be cherished - or at least kept an eye on.