16 February 2009

Aleks And The Ramps

Aleks And The Ramps
Independent, 2005

Of the sexiest songs in pop music, few are as dark as The Birthday Party's 'She's Hit'. Built around a funereal bass line and a guitar more splintering hook than sinker, it conjures a film scene that doesn't exist – a couple, fitted in black and fishnet, slow-dancing to the jukebox in some ugly, orange-tiled suburban pub.

It seems trite to reference The Birthday Party nowadays, prominent as they are in the currently fashionable post-punk canon. But few could deny singer Nick Cave's twisted sexuality, for better or worse – from the crudely scratched illustrations of strangled women in the liner notes of Tender Prey to the housewife-melting 'Into My Arms'. The first track from Aleks And The Ramps' self-titled debut, a strange epic titled 'If You Want It Come And Get It', is propelled by the same hip-grinding, gothic funk rhythm as 'She's Hit', but louder and interspersed with... um, a banjo?

Yes, a banjo. And a piano, and a xylophone, and a viola, and some other things I'm not quite sure about at all. It's thoroughly disorientating upon first listen, combining experimentalism, story-telling and snippets of pop melody into an (in?)coherent whole. The lyrics are both sinister and erotic, as Aleks's voice seeps into the jumble: "At first you thought it was a coincidence/ Your bedroom window was in line with the hole in our fence/ And I could tell you were pretending not to know/ That late at night I could see you perform your little show..."

The four-track record captures the same sense of perpetual creation as the band's live show, but proves to be a much darker experience. Final track 'Graveyard Etiquette' is an innocent, off-kilter blend of electronica and folk that collapses on itself half-way through. From the subsequent mess of guitar and percussion blooms an ominous "doo-wop-bah" refrain, like a carnivalesque mushroom cloud. It ends, two minutes later, with an accidentally recorded cough.

Aleks And The Ramps isn't the most polished record of the last year, but it is one of the bravest and — by no coincidence — the most interesting. It's a pity we're only catching up with it now. Aleks, like his exhibitionist female lead, just happened to get lost along the way: "I saw your missing persons photo again/ The thought of you with devil horns made me wish I had a pen..."

Andrew Ramadge is on holidays. This review was first published in Mess+Noise.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andrew, you're a lucky find. I've been googling bloggers who post reviews/critiques ecetera. I'll be back...and I'm adding you to my blogroll...cheers