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Vile Imbeciles
D Is For W Jeremy Allen , October 13th, 2011 07:48

A stone bust of Beethoven adorns the cover of D Is For W, its eyes obscured with one lemon and one lime slice. Though clearly insentient it appears bemused, even cheapened by the daubings of charcoal colour in its hair and on its neck and in its ear, the Norwich City yellow and green backdrop it's imposed upon diminishing its dignity, and the black blood that trickles from the right side of its mouth an insult to its revered subject.

Cover art rarely sets out an agenda, and while few in this day and age would be shocked or offended by the defacing of Ludwig Van (other than the sort of people who don't find an inanimate Winston Churchill on a plinth with a turf Mohican funny) it acts as a statement of intent, a disregarding of the past, yet another Year Zero in the evolution of music. It's a bold statement, but Vile Imbeciles are to be commended for sticking to their vision. They've more than hinted at their potential for greatness before, though there must have been days when even ardent believers had their doubts. D Is For W drags you kicking and screaming across frontiers new, and for that they all deserve a Blue Peter badge that features the ship with a torpedo up its arse.

If most musos aspire to the neat trick of taking difficult musical ideas and making them accessible, then Vile Imbeciles do quite the opposite. Initially you'll be teased into thinking what you're listening to is approachable, yet the closer you get the murkier and more dangerous it becomes, until you're drawn into a netherworld of sickness and sexual deviancy. It's breathy and sexy, though sometimes it's too damn close and leaves you queasy.

Some of it sounds very wrong indeed. 'Cease To Exist' is like Prince trying to find his prophylactics, while 'Split Your Signature' invokes the spirit of funk metal without ever unleashing the latter, instead cruising along in a Prozac bubble. The switching from funk to discordant meanderings and back again will inevitably draw comparisons with the likes of Primus, but that would be wide of the mark and frankly unhelpful. Thankfully nobody has a ponytail either. 'Hold My Head Calm As I Wake Off Your Warning Shots' is the closest the band come to conformity, and appearing as it does as the eleventh track on the album, it almost feels like a welcome respite from all the intensity. There are, however, three more tracks to pick your brain apart for anyone who hasn't yet had enough.

The shift here isn't seismic, it has to be said. Bass player James Hair has left the band to start his own business, Mr Hair's Pie Factory (no really) and only plays on three tracks, but that is unlikely to have been the catalyst for development. More likely it's in the production, carried out by a team including main man Andy Huxley and former Pink Grease guitarist Steven Santa Cruz; they've added definition, turned up the tremble, enhanced the texture and brought the recondite pop elements buried deep beneath the melee - almost undetectable to the unobservant - to the fore. Broadly and crudely speaking they've shifted away from Beefheart and been turned onto Zappa. If the ghost of Frank looms large, another spectre in the bulbous form of Les Dawson is also present; for the uninitiated, the Collyhurst-born deadpan comic genius with the sex pest eyes and fingers of Wōden would drop notes awry into popular ditties as he stooped over the piano, and a whole generation was awakened to the possibility that playing something wrong can be far more satisfying than getting it right. Music teachers across the land told us that it took great technical skill to play something that badly and we were captivated. It appealed to our naughty sides in a way that Beethoven never could.

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