, September 22nd, 2008 13:12
There's been a considerable lacuna for the ingenious Rolo Tomassi between 2006's self-titled EP release on Holy Roar and this, their debut for Hassle Records, home of Alexisonfire and Juliette and the Licks. Perhaps this band of superliterate teens and their profligate mix of prog wonkery, hardcore and Casiotone, with its feints at death metal and jazz licks, have been difficult to place. Whatever lack of a commercial home the band may briefly have endured, however, has surely been assuaged by the critical attention and rapturous crowd reaction the live shows have provoked: touring comprehensively throughout the last 2 years, Rolo Tomassi have garnered plaudits on the all-ages punk circuit, on a couple of medium-profile tour supports, and at both indie and metal festivals, culminating in an exultant set at Download in June of this year.
Given the weight of expectation on this debut, it hardly seems fair to complain that it sounds, by comparison to the EP, a little world-weary. That's not to say that it's disappointing; the hair-raising theatrics of EP tracks such as 'Film noir' and 'Seagull' seem to have subsided here into a new interest in both glamour and horror, none the less exciting, though far more wintry and disaffected; less film noir, in fact, than giallo. Instrumental 'An Apology To The Universe' is purest, Argento-era Simonetti; his work in Goblin exerts a profound influence throughout. Vocalist Eva makes a convincing final girl, adding breathy, stoically gloomy melodic lines - reminiscent of the little-midlander melancholia of Broadcast's Trish Keenan - to her usual death grunts and squeals. The lengthy introduction of 'Macabre Charade/Trojan Measures' in particular winds a plaintive call-and-response vocal around a sinuous bassline, before keyboards open the gate to a nightmare riff. The song ultimately breaks down: as parts move closer to unison, so their outer structure becomes more chaotically insistent. The effect is close to that achieved by Slint on 'Good Morning Captain' – a blissful, inevitable deterioration, entropy caught on record.
Alongside their new, glossier setpieces, there remain the structural inventiveness, the perfect asymmetry, and the rampage that mark their most confident work. 'Abraxas' and 'Fofteen' in particular share the band's characteristic turmoil: riffs like lava, like storms of fire. But the album's sombre, 14-minute closing track, 'Fantastia', with its stunning, slow-build outro, is a persuasive argument for Rolo Tomassi's new, more tempered strengths.