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The Common Cold
Shut Up! Yo Liberals! Joe Banks , May 16th, 2018 07:29

New prole art threat from Preston’s noise rock veterans

The Common Cold is an apposite name for these malcontents from the Northwest. While a cough and a sniff isn’t likely to put you at death’s door, it darkens the mood and forces you to operate at a woozy half-speed. In the same way, this album feels like wading through the physical and psychic pollution of modern life, struggling against invisible undercurrents.

That’s not to say it’s a work of groggy monotony - far from it. Musically and lyrically channelling The Fall, Earl Brutus and Campag Velocet, Shut Up! Yo Liberals! is full of pith and mischief, with a zeitgeist-baiting worldview that’s as surreal as it is jaundiced. Singer-lyricist Mark Wareing and instrumentalist Ajay Saggar trace their roots back to late-80s/early-90s noise rockers Dandelion Adventure, although Saggar in particular has remained active in the interim (a former live engineer for MBV and Dinosaur Jr, he also has a series of projects including King Champion Sounds and Deutsche Ashram).

With its driving, shuffling beat and abrasive, high tension wire riff, ‘Stop The Traffic’ establishes a fume-choked vibe of urban claustrophobia. There’s a relentless, metronomic quality as Wareing pleads, “Stop the traffic / I can’t hear the radio!” - the sizzle and squelch of raw electronics and wah-wah also suggests some mutant strain of dystopian psychedelia.

The Common Cold’s rib-pummelling basslines and submerged, half-spoken vocals are practically an indie archetype - lairy post-punk meets Northern garage rock, cussed resistance in the face of hopeless odds. Yet it’s some time since this kind of music has been delivered with such acerbic energy, and much of that comes from Wareing’s often funny, sometimes disturbing vocals. On ‘Napoleon’s Index Finger’, he’s not so much singing as surrendering to a strange stream of consciousness, a middle-aged man lost in the detritus of popular culture.

He can be pointedly cogent when he wants to be, too: on the scuzzy, rabble-rousing ‘Half Nelson Headlock’ he conjures a delirious vision of a nation becoming slowly unhinged. The sound palette expands as the album progresses: ‘Bored Of The Bayou’ starts with a fanfare of synth and is dense with clever sonic detail, while ‘Pretty Julie’ builds on softly intersecting drones, a fluid riff gradually growing more intense.

This is an album full of great tunes, and an antidote to corporate indie - the old school’s revenge on the schlock of the new.