The kids in Menace Beach remind us of the essential elements of British alt-rock: punk’s spirited amateurism, a laser-like focus on pop hooks, fluency in the semiotics of guitar-bass-drums, and the good sense to keep things simple. Their new album Lemon Memory goes down like a sweet confection, ten remarkably consistent tracks digestible by even the most distracted listeners. For others, the album piques our curiosity about how the Leeds group does what they do. Is it in the way their melodies strain against the in-the-red recording levels? Or in how the cavernous mid-tempo rhythms magnify the simplest of impacts — a cymbal crash, the appearance of a chorus? The single “Maybe We’ll Drown” offers one clue, where the chorus sets loose rounds of three-note figures in chord change and Liza Violet’s squeaky vocals. These pillars of repetition are dispersed across the whole album, undergirding the band’s straightforward pop sensibilities.
Similarly, lead track “Give Blood” hangs on a cut-and-paste guitar riff, as Menace Beach’s other singer Ryan Needham sneers, “Why do you always sing about death?” Ryan, if I can overthink this question for a minute, I think you’re referring to the ways generations of post-war British youth have stared into the void (from the German blitzkrieg to this century’s austerity measures) and musically pulled out something from nothing, specifically with snarling guitars and attitude to spare. In other words, you’re signalling the essence of Brit rock, from the Rolling Stones to the present day, are you not? Lemon Memory draws inspiredly from this insouciant spirit, negating the negation with clever, exuberant noise.
A sociology professor living in upstate New York, Leonard Nevarez is patiently waiting until his kids are old enough for a family roadtrip to Maryland Deathfest. He blogs at musicalurbanism.org and is writing a book about Martha & the Muffins and the late 70s/early 80s downtown Toronto music scene.