Posts Tagged ‘The Murlocs’

The Murlocs

While the Gizz might be gearing up for another rinse around the tub in April, you don’t have to wait that long for some harp-heckled weirdness outta OZ. Top flight Gizzard offshoot The Murlocs are back with their fourth LP and a more toughened and toned sound than they’ve displayed to date. Led by the sinewy swagger of Ambrose Kenny-Smith and the nimble bass of Cook Craig, they’ve always represented a more soul-drenched side of the equation, turning down the psychedelic splatter that hangs over their ludicrously monikered day job and doing the dirty work of making bodies move to the blues. That soul-glo is even more present on Manic Candid Episode as the band grinds out white-boy hip shakers that stick to the floor with sweat and tears. They’d always been able to hit that manic high, though, what’s interesting here is how tender Kenny-Smith lets himself get and how vulnerability really lends itself a new dimensions to the band’s equation.

The standout single “Comfort Zone” takes a lone-spotlight piano approach to ‘70s songwriting, jumping off from an Elton show-closer and giving it a twist through the band’s own rose gold filter. They continue the buttered slide through more tender territory on “Catch 22” and “Samsara Maya,” but much as they might want to temper, the twinkle in Amrose’s eye can’t help but lead them back to the fire eventually. Those harmonica hijinks return for “What If?,” “Withstand” and the title track to, admittedly, great effect. Its good to see them take the temperature down a few degrees, but its hard to argue that when they aim to singe, they leave an impression. This is the most varied and versed the band has sounded in a long time, feeling like this is the moment when they go from being a sidetrack diversion to headliners in their own right.



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The Murlocs – “Withstand”

Another psych-blooze swinger drops from The Murlocs today along with the official announcement of their third album, Manic Candid Episode. The new track, “Withstand,” doesn’t soar for the Rocketman vibes that the band had touched on previously, but instead sees Ambrose and crew returning to their stable of gritty garage shakers peppered with tons of harmonica and a half-ton of sneer. The accompanying vid is notably more lighthearted than the murder-heavy clip that accompanied “Comfort Zone,” going for a psychedelic ‘70s kids show vibe with the green screen taking on a lot of the burden. To double the exciting news, the band is also reissuing their last couple of LPs, which were a bit harder to find here in the states. Both have new editions coming out through their American outpost at ATO. Manic Candid Episode is out March 22nd.



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The Murlocs – “Comfort Zone”

Well if its a slow year for King Gizz (and it damn well should be, take a well-deserved break) then it seems time for the tangents to get back in the swing. The Murlocs’ last saw them on solid ground, steadily taking their place next to Gizz proper as more than just a side project. On “Comfort Zone,” though, Ambrose Kenny proves that he’s set to push this next album even further. With a vibe that’s definitely channeling ’70s Elton, the song stumbles and staggers through broken-soul motions with a deep well of heart and hurt. The accompanying video on the other hand posits some real Johnny Got His Gun feelings paired up with slasher/revenge fantasy fic. Not sure the two seem to correlate, but the song’s one of the locs’ best, giving some real heft to the anticipation for the upcoming LP on Flightless.

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Crepes

When Crepes’ debut LP hit the speakers last year, it was a sparkling collection of indie pop that leaned towards a matured early ‘70s hangover of breezy touchstones – from George Harrison solo jaunts to Todd Rundgren’s more reigned in Runt years. Just below the breeze, though, was a dark current, a chill that occasionally braced against their otherwise sunny strums. The ripple reared its head on standout “Tough” and the bittersweet gem “In A Dream,” giving the album a nice bit of shading that kept it from ever skewing saccharine. The band seems to have enjoyed those moments as well, because on their follow-up, In Cahoots, they seize on the darker driven pulses wholesale. The album is tinged with a kind of slinking funk, a spaced-jazz sizzle, and a propulsive pop instinct that infects the listener with an urge to move. They then cool the whole thing down on the b-side with a sunset scratch of country cool to ease the simmer out of the stylus.

The band padded out their sound for the sophomore LP, adding an additional guitar and perhaps most vitally, keys, to the mix. The keyboard shading picks up where the debut left off, perching on the edge of ‘70s pomp, but sidling down easily into puddles of power pop and nascent New Wave. In Cahoots is a subtler record than its predecessor, and as such the songs need to sit in the headphones a few more rotations to really embed themselves. It also proves to be a richer collection, though, and Crepes fuses their influences in ways that don’t always paint by the recommended numbers. It doesn’t hurt that the songwriting from Tim Karmouche (The Murlocs) is as biting as ever, burrowing hooks under the skin with a sly wink and a subtle tip of his cap. His songs endear themselves, but stop just short of showy touches, giving them a lived-in comfort that doesn’t wear out on repeat visits.

The band’s last record didn’t really anchor itself too well Stateside, and I fear that this record may suffer the same fate, due to little physical distribution in these parts. It’s a damn shame though, because In Cahoots is yet another Aussie export putting domestic competition to shame. The record latches onto just enough nostalgia and classicism to feel familiar, but this time around the band are pushing the brick forward a few wide strides. Their pop stew is damn enjoyable, not to mention a perfect accompaniment to the crisper days ahead. Do yourself a favor and skip out of the US zip code for one of 2018’s hidden pop gems.



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Crepes

The visual reference on Crepes debut LP is pretty straight forward, these guys err on the side of The Beatles in any debate over ’60s rock heroes, and they indulge in the lushest sides of the band’s emotional wake. Channel Four is rooted in the pop tradition, swirling through eddies of icy cool and exhaling steam rings laced with hooks all over a hot n’ bothered 2017. They’ve wedged themselves into a lounged detachment that pushes their sheened and shined pop into a territory that’s a notch above similarly minded smooth indie-poppers, finding purchase in honing the perfect sound that haunts their memories.

Led by the cream-swirled vocals and songwriting of Tim Karmouche (The Murlocs, Dreamin’ Wild), the record is lodged into an early ’70s hangover that re-purposes the pop traditions of the prior decade into a loftier arc, writing works for albums that were meant to be exhibited wholesale rather than split piecemeal into radio rotation. They have updated it, naturally, with a sensibility that employs modern takes, but it’s really the spirit that moves Channel Four. Lovelorn and windswept, the album breezes through the speakers with a draped melancholy that’s admirable in its commitment to tonality.

Sure, breezy pop is rife on both sides of the globe these days, there’s always going to be bands vying to knock Real Estate off of their pedestal of accessible indie wallpaper rock dominance. That’s what makes this one such a joy. It’s equally as accessible to your most clueless friends, catchy and unassuming in it’s digestion of the past. However, few of the other contenders glow with the kind of lost classic quality that crowns Channel Four. This feels like the heir apparent to the reissue kings of current vogue. Dig in now before it’s rediscovered 20 years down.




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The Murlocs

It would seem that the cult of King Gizz is reaching the boiling point these days. Still wondering how they’re gonna make that five album deadline at this point but, hell, why not throw in a side project or two while you’re at it? The band’s Ambrose Kenny-Smith will likely never fully extract himself and The Murlocs from under the yoke of his banner band, but they’re doing their best to carve out a little space of their own. Old Locamotive expands on the garage-blooze spiral that’s swirled out of The Murlocs speakers since before 2014’s Loopholes. This time it’s just a touch cleaner and snug down into a pocket of groove that feels nicely worn, like cracked leather.

The record is skewing towards the mellow, still packed with a swamp-thick punch of guitar, but not blowing as hot and frantic as the Jason Galea artwork on the cover would suggest. Kenny-Smith has always been a sucker for the blues half of that garage equation, and he plays it up like a harp man keeping his brand fresh. More often than not he can work the organ and harmonica strewn tracks into a decent romp, but there are the occasional drags. The highlights hit pretty hard, though, and when he tears into a track like “Snake In The Grass” its hard not to crack a smile. All told, this is the most consistent The Murlocs have sounded yet, and whether its studio bleed over from King Gizz or a wellspring of the band’s cohesiveness, he’s molded this into a decent volley from Flightless’ second string.




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The Murlocs – “Snake In The Grass”

While the gunshot psych train rolling towards damnation that is King Gizz cannot be stopped this year, with five albums promised and two delivered, why shouldn’t that schedule leave room for a side project or two? The band’s Ambrose Kenny-Smith has embarked on another record from The Murlocs, his own garage bound warriors on the edge of time. The clip for “Snake In The Grass” goes full claymation, with a few other swipes at the stop-motions playbook and that’s somehow always a welcomed wayback around here. The song’s hitting the sweat-rock button squarely, with Kenny-Smith’s harmonica blowing hard as ever. If you’re already in for a penny on the Gizz, why not stock up the full pound with The Murlocs on the side? This one’s got bite.



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The Murlocs – “Oblivion”

Despite helping to lay down those reported five King Gizzard albums this year, Ambrose Kenny-Smith is back with his own brand of garage-psych insanity, bringing The Murlocs roaring into 2017. “Oblivion” sees the band still dialed into the driving snap of percussion that fuels the fire, but there’s a certain slow smolder to the vocal delivery, mellowing it a bit from their last foray into the wilds of garage grit. The album is out at the end of July, so that should hit ya right in the midst of needing a hit from the Gizzard crew, right? I’m sure there will already be news of their third platter by that point, ha!

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Design Inspiration: Jason Galea

This is the second installment of RSTB’s look at the influences that drive the designers behind some of my favorite album covers. Stepping up to the spotlight, Jason Galea opens up about some favorite album covers that have influenced his style. Jason is the designer behind pretty much anything visual that’s connected to Aussie psych warriors King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, plus The Murlocs and the Tame Impala side-project Gum. Galea has also done all of the band’s insane video work and kicked in on a few great Aussie garage comps including the Nuggets comp compiled by Lenny Kaye. The first thing that drew me into King Gizz back when 12 Bar Bruise came out was the artwork, and the triple gatefold on Oddments ranks among my own favorite covers. Its truly using the LP format to its full potential. Below are Jason’s picks that span some recent garage gems and and plenty of psych oddities.

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The Murlocs

So a few tastes of The Murlocs rolled in prior to Young Blindness’ release as videos over the last couple of months and now the record has finally arrived. Naturally the band draw comparisons to singer Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s slightly (maybe just a little) more famous band, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, but aside from having a love for garage as a base and the sound of Kenny-Smith’s blistering harp, its not entirely fair to always loop them in together. The Murlocs push away from the heavy psychedelics of their seven-headed cousins, instead focusing on a garage glazed R&B hybrid that’s more attuned to the stomping riffs of The Animals and The Remains than they are to lysergic breakdowns.

The album has plenty of propulsive tricks of its own but a face-melting barrage isn’t really the band’s forte, instead they opt for a kind of laid back swagger that plays it casual and hip-slung from the moment the record opens. The best tracks aren’t entirely reclined to the point of feeling lax, but they definitely have an air of stoned reverence for keeping it cool. At the core of that cool, though, is a hard pop nugget that’s tying the record to the rails, crawling like a demon for your dance starved soul and howling the herald of The Murlocs’ arrival is Kenny-Smith with lungs like fire. Its hard to pull off the balance of feeling leather locked composed and still inspiring listeners to jump up on their feet in joy, but Young Blindness pulls it off like it was nothing to sweat over.





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