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Flower Violence Noel Gardner , May 15th, 2020 08:43

Blóm’s debut stakes out a singular presence, finds Noel Gardner

The more I try and brainstorm Newcastle trio Blóm’s position in rock’s hellish landscape, the less they sound like anyone else within it. Certainly they remind me of other groups, are analogous to others, can be talked of in the same breath as more again – all of which is different from sounding like them. On the face of it, there’s nothing especially unusual about how Blóm set up: Helen Walkinshaw, Liz McDade and Erika Leaman on vocals, drums and bass respectively, their guitarless status adding sharp focus to the bottom-end sludginess of songs which have precedence in punk, noiserock, no wave and psychedelia. Yet Flower Violence, their five-song debut album on local label Box, seems to harbour its own distinct tics of rhythm, arrangement and instrumental interplay.

If you like it equal parts blown-out and churning, majestic and uplifting, this record holds so much sonic intrigue. Engineer Sam Grant, who you may know as a Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs guitarist, can likely take some credit for this, although Blóm build on a sound established by the three songs they previously released across two short-run cassettes. Leaman slaloms between mono-blocky riffs, scalding feedback and wailing/whaling solos in the vein of Lightning Bolt’s Brian Gibson, this coming through strongest on opener ‘Audrey’; there’s a choppier complexity to ‘Meat’, its incongruous toyshop electropop intro aside, and a gothic pallor to the first third of ‘God’ until it dismembers itself and spends the next three minutes zipping through Blóm’s multiple micro-modes. Conversely, ‘Übermensch’ is a torrid, eight-minute psych dirge, instrumental for the first half of that and latterly livened by Walkinshaw jawing, “WE’RE COMING AFTER YOUR LEGACY”, repeatedly and with what feels like increasing relish.

At which point it should be underlined that there’s more to Blóm than rhythm-prizing racketeers. Flower Violence often seems to attempt the tightrope walk that is expressing one’s radical identity/ies – in this case, feminism and queerness – via slogan-style lyrics without simplifying the point to the point of pointlessness. This is pulled off, in my view: Walkinshaw uses repetition judiciously, but there are a lot of words over this 26 minutes. “Objectify me, I am your piece of meat … shrinkwrapped and sterile and praying I will get picked up,” a segment of ‘Meat’ offers. Curiously, and it’s unclear if it’s by design, three of the five songs use a piece of popular media as their thematic base. ‘Audrey’ is named in reference to Twin Peaks' Audrey Horne and appropriates various lines of hers and other references to the show; ‘Übermensch’ approaches Crime And Punishment, specifically its protagonist Rodion Raskolnikov, from an anti-misogynist perspective; and ‘God’ is Biblically-inspired, no less, lionising Mary of Bethany via couplets like “Hallowed be thy holy shame / I'm a whore without a name.”

“Stand together / Queer your mind / Let’s all try a new design,” posits closing song ‘Be Kind’ – a call for empowerment of both oneself and one’s peers, perhaps the straight-ahead punkiest thing on here but laced with plenty of FX-heavy space mangle. You can get clods of that stuff in the UK underground already, often on Box Records in fact, but it won’t sound much like Blóm. I catch myself imagining if the early 90s Olympia, WA scene had brought together its riot grrrl progenitors (Bikini Kill, Bratmobile) and arch amplifier worshippers (Karp, Godheadsilo) in one band; even that’s probably too convenient to be a truthful fit, but if you like that image, you should absolutely investigate this.