Menace Beach - Rat World

Ratworld is the long-awaited debut album from Menace Beach, named after an old Nintendo game, an independent rock band from Leeds that has been operating since 2012. 'Long awaited' not just in time, but also because the band has had some success with reviews in NME, Rough Trade, and even The Guardian, primarily for their two EPs, Dream Out and Lowtalker. Their twelve track album contains twelve tracks all of which show some a combination of variation and formula. The opening track, 'Come on Give Up' is a good example, of a heavier independent rock sound that have a chord progression to an almost pop chorus, with vocalist Ryan Needham presenting with a slight whine to his voice, all somewhat in the same style (if not the same league) as Public Image Limited mixed with recent examples of Pop Will Eat Itself. It is mainly a 90s indie sound, which does bring into question whether the time is indeed ripe for this sort of revival. Notably Menace Beach switches between male and female lead vocals (and sometimes in combination) with Liza Violet taking up the primary role in the faster second track, 'Elastic', which once again witnesses interesting chord changes and a rather good construction. The switch and combination makes for a nice dynamic in the album.

Highlights of the album are the fourth and fifth tracks, 'Lowtalkin' and 'Blue Eye'. The former is a surprisingly faster song that bursts into play from the preceding track and the latter, with Liza Violet on vocals, is much slower and orchestral, but with unexpected distortion effects. Lyrically it's quite impressive as well, as Violet explores issues relating to being a private person in a public space and the anxieties of wanting to achieve a sense of self-worth. This really is the highlight of the album. On the negative side, it pains one to say (with an admitted pro-rodent bias) that the slower 'Ratworld' comes across as simply flat and uninteresting, which really is a terrible thing to do to a title track. Most of the album however, falls on the average-good side of things, with an overall strength of the band being a notable flexibility in their style, their weaknesses being a lack of a truly polished sound, and the significant variation within songs sitting somewhere in the middle - it's clever where heard on a couple times as they switch from verse to chorus, but after several examples it comes across as rather formulaic.

To be honest, one had higher hope for the debut album of Menace Beach, rather than a string of mostly average pieces. The overall sound and genre is a good choice but the flexibility between songs suffers with an overly consistent approach within songs. Whilst this could become a 'signature style' if it was sufficiently exotic, it is not, and as a result Rat World, whilst still good, falls short of the mark of being the sort of album that bursts on the scene and wakes people from their slumber. Of course, this is hardly a death knell for the band. Plenty of bands have gone on to greatness from having a fairly average-good first album. With this in mind Menace Beach should be watched carefully for their future development.
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