Muck Spreader


Tall tales and woozy horns from London quintet Muck Spreader

OK, I’m going to be honest for a bit here. When I first listened to Abysmal I wasn’t into it. I didn’t exactly think it lived up to its title, but I wasn’t blown over. It all came off as a muddy sounding cacophony. The horns were my favourite thing, but they were constantly being outshined by the drumming, keyboards, and basslines. The vocals weren’t as clever, or funny, as they seemed to think they were. Instead, they grated against the music and made me remember open mic nights I’ve gone to where the acts were too loud and sounded more in love with their voice coming out of the speakers than everyone attending.

However, after a few listens, these initial thoughts vanished. In their place I started to ‘get’ Abysmal for what it was. An EP that works incredibly well, warts and all.

The record opens with ‘Take Flight’. Deep basslines, soaring horns and a gradually creeping feeling of unease are the order of the day here. Muck Spreader lay all their cards on the table. Lyrically, vocalist Luke Brennan is on top form. “This ain’t no Kenan and Kel ting. Might as well recess it” is a joy of a lyric, tapping into 90s kids TV programming whilst hinting that there will be no fun and games here. No elaborate setups for a cute punchline that saves the day and makes the audience feel like they’ve learnt something. Instead Muck Spreader keep things nice and abstracted while hinting at a bigger narrative. ‘Would He’ is up next. Here Brennan does his best Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry growls while telling a story about a dog called Theodore. The band are as lose and sketchy as the lyrics. There is a real sense of fun here. The horns stutter along over massive dub motifs. The whole thing is a hulking mass, quivering with the shakes after a big night out. At any moment you feel it could collapse but it doesn’t.

‘Mass Graves’, ‘A Particular Shade of White’, and ‘Matilda’ sound like a dream collaboration between Gil Scott Heron and Squid. Dense instrumentation is peppered with woozy horns, creating a lurid soundscape. Brennan tells a particular wonky story about ancient explorers, gunslingers, love, loss, and redemption. ‘Matilda’ is the standout track. The music is jaunty. It has a proper bounce to it. You can feel the joy emanating from the speakers. Then Brennan starts to speak and delivers the line of the album: “Battle hardened warriors. From their latest saga. And they’re voyages. They conquered but still came back maimed, like a broke box of instruments. Some of them limped. Other of them were missing limbs. Some people an eye. Some ahead. Most of them lost their mind.”

While Muck Spreader aren’t doing anything new, there is something really life-affirming about Abysmal. It slowly creeps up on you. Bores into your head and under your skin. The jazzy melodies are catchy. The dub motifs work really well with Brennan’s vocals and the synths wrap everything in a hazy cocoon. The main takeaway from Abysmal is that you should always persevere with albums that feel like hard work to begin with. These albums are the best. They are the ones you’ll return to again and again. And Abysmal can be added to that list. A record that is anything but Abysmal.

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