, November 6th, 2009 07:44
The enigmatically titled Debbs Leggs, from an enigmatic line-up calling themselves Debbie Leggo (Debbie/Debbs must be the voluptuous computer-generated woman on the album cover — she's cropped at the neck, though; no legs on view) is a blast of stormy, narcotic energy. There are tiny flashes of humour and tenderness, too, that start to show up on second listen, or third, or fourth.
Vocalist Gerry Mitchell is a poet, but he is anything but mannered. His voice is not loud, but the bass register it occupies seems to permeate the bones before it hits the ears or the mind. He does more speaking than singing: sometimes Mark E Smith-outraged, sometimes Aidan Moffat-dour, he shouts and mutters, drawing Glaswegian vowels out like saltwater taffy. It is testament to Debbs Leggs that while it sounds as though it cohered — it would be too prim to imagine that it was "composed" — around Mitchell's words, you could take him away and the bleakly beautiful instrumentation would still make for a compelling album.
Opener 'Love Travels on a Tightrope' bursts out like a Fall cover of The Who's '5.15', Mitchell slurring with intoxicated abandon over a stabbing single-note synth, a twisty, intricate bassline and thudding low drums. "It's good to be scared", he intones repeatedly, then later, almost to himself, "Horrible dialogue! Horrible dialogue!" He sounds as though he is gargling soap. Instruments pile in and the tempo speeds up faster and faster until, two minutes in, amidst thrashing guitars and battered toms, it collapses, like a child that has run itself into manic exhaustion.
It restarts with a drone. The stabbing synth has slowed down into a sluggish echo and the vocals are bubbling from somewhere deep under water. From there on in, Debbs Leggs is like a murky fish tank, where tiny squiggles dart invisibly through turbid water: stomach-churningly fascinating, abrim with energy and decay. 'Manic Molecules/Funkadelic' and 'Doggy Doo (In the Stench He Finds His Muse)' — these two ten-minute tracks make up the bulk of the 33-minute album — are woozy, ambient washes of ghostly sound over crashing percussion, thrumming feedback and a guitar that sounds as though it's hooked up to the mother of all pedal boards. Sam Mac on bass is virtuosic throughout — fleet-fingered and frenetic. Sometimes Mitchell is a ghostly presence in the background, but at others he is an intoxicated preacher, spitting ragged sentences into a void of swirling, droning doom. "Joyless mechanical universe! Robot automated fuck!" he snaps. "Inevitable suicide!" Then, in the closing seconds of 'Doggy Doo', it's just possible to make out a plaintive question: "I just want to find out if we're recording?"
At the album's close, 'This is a Death and Love Song' swells gently into being, its tremulous opening lines echoing Leonard Cohen's most famous apologia: "Like the drunken words in my heart, I would be driven to give it all back, all I have been given." Behind Mitchell there are a few spare piano notes and the faint, far-off sound of a church organ. From the intimacy of a confession booth, the sound gradually grows to fill the nave of a vast cathedral, acquiring layers of caressing bass, fuzzy Spacemen 3 guitar, the plink of a tambourine and soft, wordless harmonies that may well be sung by seraphim. They crescendo majestically and then fade, until only the sound of lapping waves remains. It is like being washed up on a ravaged, newly unfamiliar shore after the apocalypse — as though you are looking at both the end of the world, and its beginning.