EVERYTHING IS IN CAPITALS ON THIS ALBUM SO I AM GOING TO MAKE THE REVIEW CAPITALS AS WELL BECAUSE ANYTHING LESS WOULD MAKE ME A PUSSY.
Not really. There were two things that attracted me to PHILM (the music not the hairy men). Firstly, they feature Dave Lombardo on drums. If I have to explain who Dave Lombardo is you really shouldn’t be here. Secondly, it’s an album on Ipecac. If I have to explain what Ipecac is you definitely should go. Now. Don’t look at me sadly, you should be better educated.
Now that we’ve lost the riff raff, let’s chat. PHILM is the initial outing for this new group. If I read press releases I could tell you who the other people in the band are but I don’t read press releases because they’re paid propaganda and so utterly worthless.
What I know about PHILM is that everyone involved is clearly very talented. Lombardo performs flawlessly throughout playing in a pretty conventional style (bearing in mind what he’s capable of) but with great gusto. The bass player is amazing, frequently throwing things in that indicate many years of experience. The guitarist is capable of all sorts of things ….from thrash to jazz noodling and the vocalist sounds like about fifteen different people. One moment he’s Page Hamilton from Helmet next moment he’s Nigel Tuffnell from Spinal Tap.
It’s an extremely varied album with the first three songs being out and out metal and jolly good too. There’s something familiar about them. Maybe because the riff’s don’t go anywhere controversial or there’s nothing too experimental going on but it’s certainly one of Ipecac’s least weird albums to date. So far. Of course, the fourth tune is an instrumental jazz workout with bass / guitar duelling so all of a sudden I’m a bit confused. It’s alright but a bit featureless….it’s just a jazz workout. The next song “MEZZANINE” is also instrumental and sounds how I imagine the Police might have sounded while jamming. I don’t like the Police (the band not the institution) and I don’t like these two songs a great deal. Not because I don’t like jazz noodling (I love it) but because it doesn’t work. It’s not the tempo change it’s the guitar sound and possibly the aimless nature of it.
They get back in the saddle for “MILD” and I realise why they sound familiar. The whole sound and structure of these fast songs is massively reminiscent of grunge and 90’s rock and listening to “MILD” is like getting into a time machine and whizzing past every rock gig of the decade at once. Something about the next tune (with it’s awesome drum intro) reminds me of Headswim for fucks sake. Maybe it’s the bass sound or the truly ill advised and badly contrived voice the vocalist chooses to sing this song in (imagine Austin Powers doing a Ronnie James Dio impression) but the 90’s is what I thunk of. I should add that virtually throughout the vocalist is eminently listenable (he has a great scream) it’s just the English bits I sniff at.
The past keeps raising it’s head (the intro to “AREA” is just “Bombtrack” by RATM) but I think this kind of head down, fun times approach to making an album is why this albumn is a success. The band haven’t deliberated and prevaricated and planned. They’ve gone into a studio and played and some times that isn’t to my taste but when they come up with the cowboy-noir epic “WAY DOWN” it’s very easy to wish more bands would cut out the brainwork and just play. Each and every sound on “WAY DOWN” is perfect and it’s a masterpiece of downtempo simplicity, even if it sounds like the mental bloke from Suicidal Tendencies when the vocals come in. Psyco Mike. That was his name.
The title track is more of the same slow cinematic stuff and minus the wanky jazz noodling is very effective which is why I literally stand up and shout “Shut The Fuck Up” when Dave is playing a superb drum line on “EXUBERANCE” which the bass and guitar utterly ruin. It does recover, turning into a feedback drenched serving of psychedelic rock but I wonder if anyone will actually get that far. “SEX AMP” (good title) rescues us by being just too good, as joyous an experience as being handed a sledgehammer and a room full of breakables. One day this will happen to me.
So it seems that PHILM have three strings to their bow, full on metal, blues cinematics and jazz noodling. I predict that if they drop the jazz noodling they have a total win on their hands.