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Melt Yourself Down 
Pray For Me I Don’t Fit In CJ Thorpe-Tracey , March 2nd, 2022 09:25

The new Melt Yourself Down might not be as wild and crazy as it think it is, but it's still a heck of a ride, finds CJ Thorpe-Tracey

British sax giant Pete Wareham has made astonishing, transcendent music over the years, in various outfits and collaborations. His current band, the fluid, genre-leapfrogging collective Melt Yourself Down lives at the louder, more solidly aggressive end of his range and has now lasted for a decade. They arrive at their fourth album Pray For Me I Don’t Fit In in a fierce ‘party hard against adversity’ kind of a mood.

Pretty much the whole way through, without pausing for breath, Pray For Me I Don’t Fit In sounds like a carnival band decided to make a covers album of 90s industrial rock classics. I don’t reckon this is an influence they’re especially punting for. However, happily or not, it’s where they land. This is a thrilling mosh, though it can get annoying.

A clearly very gifted band weaves effects-heavy live drums and percussion through busy electronic beats and metallic production tricks. Ruth Goller’s exceptionally solid bass riffs drive the mess along, a constant highlight. Then they fill it out with mostly synths and typically banging Wareham horn work. Finally, Kushal Gaya’s simple, chanted vocals reverberate over the top. Quite often, more voices join in unison for choruses or key lines.

Despite its roots nominally in the jazz universe, melodically and rhythmically – lyrically too but I’ll get to that – Pray For Me kind of sounds like stuff like Nine Inch Nails, or Killing Joke, or even sometimes INXS, or that time Dave Gahan grew a beard, except always with big brassy honks taking the romantic lead roles. I keep thinking of various members of big 80s goth bands going solo and trying to expand their sonic horizons.

‘For Real’ exemplifies this, with a clanky groove behind a grinding workbench riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Pop Will Eat Itself twelve-inch. Or, to get extreme about it, perhaps if Marilyn Manson made a record with Trouble Funk and they didn’t kill each-other, it might end up somewhere in this ballpark.

On ‘Nightsiren’ a frantic 808 topper is distorted and squeezed down to a glitchy eight-bit sound, however when they suddenly switch to a half-speed rock beat, it’s so out-and-out alt-metal cheesy, one half-expects motorbike sound effects.

When this kind of intense blending works, it’s exciting and visceral, especially when the bass drives the jam. Like on ‘Boots Of Leather’ as the singing stops and it’s all stabbing horns and a bunch of people shouting “hey yeah!” Similarly, ‘Fun Fun Fun’ is pumping along, then the sax shows up, just beautifully off-kilter, to give the track a lovely lurch and sway, without losing any of its energy.

My outright highlight might be ‘Sunset Flip’, again driven along full tilt by a killer bassline. This song also drops to half-speed, for an irritating old fashioned psych section. But then, once it’s up to full whack again, it’s bloody fantastic, like they could be The Oh Sees.

But here’s the thing. Even though it's a hectic ride, I think they’re missing a level of pure abandonment. Perhaps there’s a bit too much production. For example, often the live drumming has a distorted, thinned out sense to it, which probably meshes the drums more tightly into the whole, yet makes the record seem mechanical.

It’s probably rough to criticise a record because not enough goes wrong, yet that’s how I start to feel about it. Perhaps producer Ben Hillier tidied up the chaos a little too much. He held a rooftop orgy, then spent half the night running around putting placemats under wine glasses, throwing salt on spillages. The ostentatiously wreck-head abandon of Pray For Me has been carefully nudged and pulled back into place, instead of being left to soar or fall apart. This makes the album somewhat cold. It’s not a dealbreaker, things are still barrelling along.

These lyrics definitely aren’t for me, though. The songs are full of universal catch-all emotive cliché and energetic platitude, instead of what might’ve been incendiary specificity, or brutal candour. Here’s where Pray For Me starts to frustrate: I mean, some of these lyrics are bad. Noel Gallagher bad. At which point, you can add Kasabian or Reverend And The Makers to the list of namechecks, which is troubling. There’s a (surely unintended) masculine preening edge to the blend of vocal style and lyrical content that makes me uneasy. I definitely don’t mean that there’s something problematic here. Just, what feels like blokey shouting gets a bit much. Some of these half-chanted, half-sung lead lines have a load of delay effect added, which brings to mind another risky 90s alt-rock connecting point, Jane’s Addiction.

The closest we get to a quieter moment, ‘All We Have’, with its lovely dramatic pauses and restraint, and real atmosphere, thank god, also serves to expose the daft writing. Singer Kushal Gaya has also collaborated with Sarathy Korwar, whose 2019 album More Arriving has both the poetic directness and the loose warmth I’m missing.

So, if I jiggle around to Pray For Me, play it loud and pretend I’m cool doing the washing up, I enjoy it a hundred times more than if I sit down and try to engage with its content. Is that a bad thing? I have no idea. I bet they’re bloody blistering live. I’ll definitely go, if they show up near me.

However, if you feel an urge to constantly remind people that you’re a misfit and an outsider, you almost certainly aren’t one. Wareham has been Mercury nominated more than once, he’s won awards and been widely heralded across music scenes, in a storied career. Perhaps inevitably, having claimed ‘misfit’ as branding, Pray For Me I Don’t Fit In is not as edgy or freakazoid as it thinks it is. Still, held at arm’s length, played on the big speakers, it’s still a terrific dumb-arse ride and a huge amount of fun.