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The Pre New
The Male Eunuch Sharon O'Connell , May 21st, 2015 11:41

If the release of their second album was not deliberately scheduled for the week after the general election, then the Pre New must at least have relished its timing. Not because they're political – at least, not in the manner of their peers Sleaford Mods – but because an election pulls into focus value systems and raises questions about purpose, signification and identity, all of which are very much on the Pre New agenda.

But if that suggests five finger waggers with a Barthes fixation, then… hardly. After all, this is a band formed from the rump of Earl Brutus, whose snarling mutant disco provided a live backdrop against which late singer Nick Sanderson leered in front of a revolving sign reading "Piss/Off", while their hype man yelled incoherently, drank copiously and (on one memorable occasion) hurled cheese at the audience. Like them, and like Pulp, Denim and Luke Haines, in their own way, The Pre New realise that disappointment in and/or disgust with modern British life isn't cancelled out by hook-heavy tunes and humour, it's communicated more compellingly.  

That said, The Male Eunuch is very much a disparate soundtrack suited to the landscape it describes, where a Laura Ashley collection, an EasyJet ticket and Farrow & Ball paints are symptoms of a collective existential malaise and where a relationship can shift from hopeful to hopeless in the space of two consecutive songs (the 'Janet vs John' set). Bowie's stomping glam rock and Magazine's wayward post punk, Depeche Mode's dinky synth pop and the strutting robo-disco of Nitzer Ebb, Sparks' art cabaret and the operatic malevolence of Fantomas – all are corralled into service and fed through the Pre New's noise-punk grinder.

Across the album, lyrics leap suddenly out like car lights in a dark tunnel, illuminating unpalatable truths with the sarcasm on full beam. "These are richer days, these are better times, we are stronger now," we're assured in the deceptively upbeat 'Psychedelic Lies', while the portrait of a union gone sour, 'Janet vs John (The Outcome)' tells of "all the emptiness the guy from Elbow never sung" and in the queasily alien 'Photographed', we're informed, in a turn of phrase that's pure John Cooper Clarke that "anything can happen round here – but it doesn't."  

Track titles such as 'Flaccid Astronaut' and 'MRI Classics' are typically droll, but both songs reveal depth beyond a one-liner. The former is a sweetly melodic, wonk-pop number that relives a chat between a father and his space travel-obsessed son, who once dreamed of working at Jodrell Bank but for whom "nothing happened" as an adult. And although The Pre New surely dug the comical mismatch and fingers-in-ears abrasiveness of the latter – in which the noise of an MRI scan almost obliterates the Blake/Parry hymn 'Jerusalem' – it also works as a metaphor for this ailing nation's need of an accurate diagnosis. The strength of 'Middle Class Heavy Metal On Anti-Depressants' as a title is that it packs no punch line; it's simply a description that fits.

For some, The Male Eunuch will be too bleak, the sound of a bunch of fifty-something men with a terminally jaundiced view simply pointing at Everything That's Bad And Wrong while guitars grind, synths judder and electronics buzz. But given a current worryingly widespread determination not to look, the Pre New are as good as performing a public service.

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