The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Wicked City Cal Cashin , July 30th, 2020 07:53

Jockstrap go dark on their latest release, Wicked City, for Warp Records

At the heart of Jockstrap’s music is the idea of The City, a conceptual realm in which their art exists. An abstract, promised land, in which things are technicolour and dreams are big. It’s a strange phrase, The City, because despite the fact it’s generally meant to refer to London’s business district, it sounds like something out of a Terry Pratchet novel. I’m still at an age young enough that every time I’m told someone works in The City, I imagine it as some kinda fairytale metropolis, like they’re a warlock not a banker, although whether this is rational, I do not know.

Jockstrap’s debut EP Love is the Key to the City came out in 2018, and sees the wunderkid duo paint a fantastical picture of The City. Old Hollywood strings flourish, propelled by bright city-pop synths. Georgia Ellery (of Black Country, New Road and ‘Bait’ (2019) fame) provides visual and anecdotal lyrics atop Taylor Skye’s playful production. Whilst it has it’s wilder moments, like the gleefully perverse breakdown on ‘Joy’, Jockstrap’s debut ultimately painted an idealised utopic vision of a City very much unlike any I’ve ever been to.

However, this time around, Jockstrap present us with a very different City. A direct response to the band’s dreamlike debut, Wicked City is a venomous inversion of the very world the group strived to create; where there was once playfulness, there is now fiendishness. It’s a frenetic and lively record, for not once does it stay too long in one place.

The album artwork for the group’s debut Love is the Key to the City, its remix album and the supplementary singles were adorned by film photo close-ups of the band’s members. On Wicked City, the artwork comes in the form of manipulated and fantastical paintings by Charlotte Taylor and Jacob Stockings. The shock horror of Stockings’ cover art for the EP is perhaps the best signifier of the band’s transition to a far darker place.

This fiendish new outlook is best exemplified on ‘The City’, a recent single that begins with one of Ellery’s lo-fi piano demos, before the track descends into feverish electronic meltdown with goblin-like manipulated vocals. Perhaps Jockstrap’s greatest strength is their ability to bring seemingly disparate elements into one cohesive work; and ‘The City’’s transition from piano solace to its devilish inversion is a prime example of this.

Wicked City is darker than its predecessor, and this is reflected on each track of their first record on Warp. Ellery’s vocals reflect this; seldom does she sing, more often she mumbles lethargically and growls with vindictive rage. On the EP’s opening salvo, she sternly spits; “you’re controlling me, Robert” before Stepa J Groggs from industrial hip-hop outfit Injury Reserve chimes in with an efficient feature atop Skye’s brooding synth beats.

The title track, ‘Wicked City’, wryly continues the record’s dark underbelly; melodious piano sugar sweet beats evoke PC Music, but Georgia Ellery’s lyrics have a malignance to them as she details the grit of a toxic relationship. On this closing number, the narrator laments: “was supposed to be looking for love, but where was ours?”

Jockstrap are a group still in their relative infancy, but their musical ideas and artistic vision here is fully formed. They’re no longer an exciting prospect, but a divine force in their own experimental pop field; more than anything else, it whets the whistle for a full length. Wicked City is the latest glimpse into their fully realised sonic kingdom, and I can’t wait to spend more time there.