Lo-fi punk that screams with the vitality of the USA’s west coast.
It’s nearly impossible to avoid a comparison with the land of lo-fi, reverb, acid affects (anything that sounds like a distorted vortex of Korg synthesisers really), when it comes to an LP that is layered with these turn of the century musts. Menace Beach’s Ratworld may appear to be as American as Apple Pie, but the thought that this Leeds duo dream of the west coast life, is immediately squandered by their versatility in placing pop together with lo-fi and surf rock, just as they had on their 2014 EP, Lowtalker.
Now on Ratworld, Menace Beach have blended together an album that flows as naturally as the Nile. Piecing together influences from a variety of scenes, Ratworld bulldozes the constant blurred lashings of energy, which most lo-fi focused albums contain, with breaks of more mellow styles, especially on Blue Eye, the hazy chilled follower to the punk fuelled menace of Lowtalkin.
On tracks Elastic and Tennis Court, the almost lack of a recognisable lo-fi style, feels familiar to its predecessor of post-rock music from the 90’s. Within Elastic, contemporary surf rock riffs, which just fall short of being guitar solos, create the first example on Ratworld, of how this Leeds duo are guided by their predecessors and their current influences, but not blinded by either side. While reverb and sound affect induced vocals may be present, they don’t overkill Elastic. Similarly on Tennis Court, a resonance to Brighton rockers Blood Red Shoes (with a much softer toning) can be felt as the key tone, instead of the slacker rock, reverb that is normally favoured.
It is only on tracks such as Lowtalkin, Dig It Up and Tastes Like Medicine where a constant, lo-fi meets rock presence can be felt. While Dig It Up and Tastes Like Medicine are more apparent with their lo-fi tendencies in both vocal displays and guitar manipulation, Lowtalkin is the contrasting track of the three. Fuelled with high octane punk, layered in reverb and lo-fi, with Liza’s constant ‘Lowtalkin’ vocals being more manufactured than anything on the entirety of Ratworld, this short burst of modern era punk is the most abrupt track of the entire LP.
On the remaining tracks, the balance between lo-fi and rock is constantly challenged by Menace Beach as a means of ensuring that they don’t confine themselves to the sound of lo-fi’s earliest west coast stars.
An issue about Menace Beach’s debut for Velvet though, is that it’s likely to cause lo-fi fans on both sides of the pond (and the rest of the world) to dismantle and discredit Ratworld for being American, but for not being American. Lo-fi is problematic with its Wavves copycats and Best Coast wannabes. Only a select few manage to break through the late 00’s lo-fi craze, with some slight noise made about them and then there’s even less from outside the USA. Ratworld has managed to break through the stigma attached to lo-fi astonishingly, fully utilising the art of rock music. So now it’s up to the lovers of lo-fi to embrace Menace Beach’s debut, just as lovingly as Wavves’ or Best Coast’s debuts were by rock fans back in the late 00’s. It’s undeniable that Ratworld is far beyond the reverb drenched tracks of 2009 so it shouldn’t be a problem.