Having written positively about Menace Beach’s previous two LPs we were both excited and a little apprehensive concerning the new release. Excited, obviously, because it’s a new record. Apprehensive because we’d heard a change in direction meant their sound had shifted and we’d have been disappointed if this had led to a dip in quality. However, although things have gotten more synth-orientated, we’d assert ‘Black Rainbow Sound’ still retains the fuzziness and wonkiness that has always made the band’s output so appealing.
It’s been implied there’s been a certain amount of debate within Menace Beach regarding the precedence given to individual instruments but the final product sounds very much like a group united and reveling in a fresh new approach. Perhaps more relevant than what’s higher or lower in the mix though is the overall process. This is an album born out of willful experimentation rather than going into the studio with fully-formed ideas. This can be a big gamble for bands as it can result in something messy or ill-thought-out. This is not the case here.
To posit the group sound revitalized would imply they were in need of revitalizing in the first place. Given the brilliance of what they’ve created to date that would be a faulty premise. But Menace Beach do sound like they’re benefiting from changing their habits. This is an album that sparkles and has to be counted as a step up regarding their overall catalog, given how difficult it is to build on such deservedly well-received music. Whilst the band must be applauded for going with their instincts, Matt Peel of Eagulls also deserves a special mention because the production is impressive.
Including former Fall member Brix Smith in proceedings undoubtedly contributes something special. But to call these standout moments would do a disservice to the rest of a beautifully complete work. Take ‘8000 Molecules’. Here the synth and drum machine combo proves a delight, melding to great effect with Liza Violet’s ethereal vocals. The harder hitting ‘Crawl In Love’ will understandably get a lot of mentions whilst ‘Watermelon’ quickly transitions into one hell of a fuzzed out groove which should go down equally well at gigs.
When the dust has settled regarding the basic sonic changes, perspective should reveal that, whilst Menace Beach may have mutated slightly, their essential appeal remains consistent. This is an outfit that can’t help but make massively enjoyable scuzzed up psychedelic garage rock/pop music. If altering the process and adjusting the balance helps the band retain and build on such overall vibrancy then how could anyone disagree?
‘Black Rainbow Sound’ is out now on Memphis Industries.