Spider & The Flies

Something Clockwork This Way Comes

With the new Horrors album seemingly lost among tins of hairspray and Peaches Geldof’s nosebag in Faris’ dainty portmanteau, this interesting release creeps out via new Mute offshoot Mute Irregulars. Spider & The Flies are The Horrors’ chalkily handsome organ player Rhys Webb and bass player Tom Cowan, who is known to the gothier end of the Skins demographic as Tomethy Furse. Something Clockwork This Way Comes sees the duo leaving the garage/Cramps/Birthday Party schlock of their day job (day job? One of these boys went to Rugby, he don’t need no day job) for a perhaps surprisingly mature-sounding, electronic approach.

Long-time fans of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Cowan once wrote a fanzine in honour of said august institution), this influence is clear throughout. However, Spider & The Flies give the whole a macabre pop twist, unafraid to add devilishly compelling hooks and unrelenting beats to the otherworldly echoes and bleeps. Indeed, Something Clockwork… owes as much in spirit to the nastier early releases on the Mute label as it does the exploits of Delia Derbyshire and her cohorts. I’m thinking an instrumental Fad Gadget, and Webb and Cowan have undeniably set their skinny-jeaned derrieres upon The Normal’s ‘Warm Leatherette’.

Although the album’s moniker suggests something out of the menacing animation of The Brothers Quay, the track titles imply a duo with that sense of futurism that imbued the early electronic pioneers – ‘Space Walking’, ‘Million Volt Light’, ‘Metallurge’, ‘Telsabeat’ and so on.

While I imagine the stuffier end of Radiophonic fanbase might take umbrage with the transmutation of their heroes into a record that’s steely, stern, and decadently well dressed, it’s a modus operandi that works to superb effect. In ‘Space Walking’, for example, a miasma of vacuum echoes, pinging signals and hints of the Doctor Who theme are beset by a catchy boop-boop sound that, if replicated with The Horrors’ guitar and organ, would make for a tastily pulsating, garage riff. On Spider & The Flies’ ‘Jungle Planet’, insects rub metallic legs and baboons hoot through pursed lips dripping with black oil. The simple pings over deep arterial throbbing of ‘Million Volt Light’ make for a Moomin’s daydream, while ‘Teslabeat’ couldn’t be better named, a purposeful quasi-industrial thumping under an assembly line of phasers. But this is just the countdown before ‘Autochrome’ kicks into gear. The scratching minimalism of the rest of Something Clockwork… is gathered up from the workshop floor and deftly reconfigured into a motorik electro monster that, mysteriously, suddenly cuts out at four minutes just as it gets marauding. If it’s a device to keep us wanting more, it certainly works – this writer for one is hoping Messrs. Cowan & Webb continue to deliver in this most interesting extra-curricular project.

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