Music Reviews

Kagoule Urth

(Earache Records) Rating - 7/10

Scavenging from the decomposing carcasses of the 90s US alternative rock scene has become less and less fructiferous after more than two decades of riding a crestfallen wave, so when a band chooses to use these carcasses to provide the bulk of the nutrients for their latest offering, boxing clever is essential. Nottingham trio Kagoule prove themselves extremely able of doing just that with their debut LP, expertly entwining evasive melodies and skeletal clout around a brash, grungy blueprint that will leave the red meat lovers amongst us salivating.

Right from the off, with opening track Gush, the quiet/loud dynamic that was refined in the 90s by the usual big name suspects is at the forefront of Kagoule’s sound. Cai Burns’s guitar ducks and weaves its way around percussion that can be timid one minute, and downright brutal the next, and Burns is all too happy to mirror that with his guitar skits. The first few bars of Adjust The Way recall Alice in Chains in their Dirt days, whilst the short-circuiting instrumentation veers from cadaverous moderation to ultra-aggressive havoc without any sort of prior warning. There is no wasted motion with Kagoule, who are nothing less than systematically economic when it comes to refining their own sound.

On top of this, Kagoule appreciate the need to reboot the sound that they’re tapping in to, and the unpasteurized concept that the band have achieved with their debut album allows for the whole record to remain fresh and wholly organic. The mid-section wears Cobain, Corgan, Stephen Malkmus and Brian McMahan subtly on its sleeve as the album runs its course, but never veers anywhere close to plagiarizing. It’s not all onslaughts and assault, though. Patches of light do make the odd appearance, and Made of Concrete is the record’s most luminous moment. Burns puts the clamor and scrape, which is for the most part of the record the domineering theme, on the backburner for a bit, and allows his guitar to chime rather than threaten or attack. Bassist Lucy Hatter takes lead vocals on this one, tenderly imploring over a more lustrous soundscape. Album closer It Knows It is not as adept at revamping a sound ripped from that 90s alternative rock scene, and is as Smashing Pumpkins as Billy Corgan’s short-sleeved shirt over a long-sleeved shirt.

For a debut LP that relies so heavily on a sound that is considered by some as fossilized, this is a very good effort. Urth is meticulously intricate in its more labyrinthine moments, and categorically barbarous for the rest of it. Kagoule are never anything less than exhilarating, refining their own take on the best bits of a bygone, but great rock movement. The result is an invigorating record displaying the craft of a sadistic surgeon, dissecting an outmoded model into a beast with more cunning and more dexterity than its influences that it superseded.