Music Reviews
Living Human Treasure

Italia 90 Living Human Treasure

(Brace Yourself) Rating - 7/10

Brace Yourself indeed. This unrelenting debut from London post-punks Italia 90 bristles with anger, frustration and resentment – as it should. Britain is falling apart and Living Human Treasure simply offers an unfiltered snapshot of the country in its (barely) managed decline. Like a brutalist slab of concrete, this record isn’t immediately pretty; you can admire it, call it good example in its field, but it’s hard to love.

Whether political or not, the finest post-punk albums – Entertainment!, Pink Flag, This Nation’s Saving Grace, Vs. – all managed to incorporate elements of melody to offset those hallmark abrasive rhythms. Those records may be predominantly grayscale, but it’s the bursts of colour, used sparingly yet effectively, which allow them to endure as genre landmarks. In contrast, Living Human Treasure is pretty bleak, even by post-punk standards. 

At times it’s almost industrial, as discordant guitars, jittery rhythms, and piercing bursts of noise create a sense of disorientation. Vocalist Les Miserable (I know) somehow manages to sound both agitated and bored. The legendary Mark E. Smith is one obvious comparison, if he’d grown up in Brighton and relocated to South London; a less jaunty Eddie Argos is another.

There’s an insistent, almost oppressive monotony to the first half of Living Human Treasure that’s all very impressive, but the real magic happens when Italia 90 let a little light in. Does He Dream? and the magnificent standout Tales From Beyond (as close as the band gets to a pop song) deliver a late reward for those who have stayed the distance.

So, Living Human Treasure is hard to love, but it’s not unlovable. There’s a smart, inventive band at work here, with the potential to rise to the very top of the current class of post-punk acts. And as Britain continues to flounder, one suspects Italia 90 have no shortage of things to get outraged about.