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Buttonhead
Never Or Forget Brendan Telford , October 11th, 2017 16:13

Peculiar, disarming and fiercely adroit - Buttonhead are back with a strange and excellent second album.

South London wunderkinds Buttonhead are rounding on us for a second time, and the mostly secret supergroup are more peculiar, disarming and fiercely adroit than ever. Not that you are expecting convention from the melted minds behind Tomaga, Gum Takes Tooth, Gentle Friendly and Poino, but Never Or Forget presents song structures as deliberate break-neck doglegs, knitted together with dextrous derring-do and mischievous chutzpah, knitted brow and slack-jawed abandon. ‘Robocop Sunset’ (the band are still adept at their bizarre song title misnomers) kicks off with a tin whistle before a growling and thundering wall of tension forces its way in. It also incorporates strings, angelic choral melodies, psycho-pop math noodlings, thick 90s indie bass, death metal growls and Patton-esque eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-the-head gurning yelps and mutters.

The Mediterranean guitar strum-and-flick that begins ‘Call Me Steven’ continues with a continental shift when the full band breaks out, shuffling and humming as friends call for friends on land and sea, before what sounds like a bassoon in a dune buggy takes a rollicking turn into a Boris nosedive and release. The coda is all naive pop platitudes and promises to kill and a drawn-and-quartered guitar squall. So weird, so incredible.

‘Tungsten Trail’ bounces off pixellated walls like a helium-and-ice maddened 8-bit Deerhoof, or a more rustic and relatable Animal Collective, buzzing around hypercolour side-scrolling landscapes in search of palindromes and cures for the hiccups on the titular trail. It is so addictive and alien that you are caught between a contact high and an ice-cream headache, never knowing which side of the rainbow you will end up on.

Things do slow down – there are only so many about-turns one can take before the G-forces turn dreams into abject nightmares – and ‘RSI Hands’ dips us into a plaintive, almost puerile pixie ditty that evokes indie whimsy darlings such as Tilly & the Wall or the Ryan Gosling-dabbling Dead Man’s Bones, even with the oompa band and violin baroqueness. Then there is the hypnotic wave of ‘Coombe Dean’, made all the more entrancing by its slow-motion dog-walking-through-leaves video – check it out when you can, there is something elegiac, almost Morricone-esque about the synergy of the music and image.

Being the proud father of a four month old girl, and having witnessed other friends of mine incorporate their infant children into their art, I couldn’t help but smile at closer ‘Tina De Gower’, an industrial calamity melodiously spiked from the free-association garble and splutter recordings of a toddler’s echolalia. The dissonant sawing distortion and warped carnival outro elongate the psychedelic discord, turning what is a quaint family jam into a gallery of nightmarish grotesqueries, the childish foreign tongue suddenly gargantuan and indefinable.

It’s not often you get a listen that is difficult, adventurous and inimitably fun, but that is exactly what Never Or Forget is: a maniacal kaleidoscope of a molotov cocktail that ignites despite and because of its disparate alchemical components. It’s a brilliantly arcane trip.

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