Thursday, May 17, 2012

ONIONS Pleasure Blast

If I understand this right, this album, the debut from the Manchester-based trio following singles in 2007 and 2009, has been six years in the making. Not only is the debut finally now here, the follow-up album is recorded and mixed AND all songs for the third are written too. Before we get ahead of ourselves, this year's release...

It may have been a long gestation for ‘Pleasure Blast’ but it is not an over-cooked affair. Instead it’s a richly piquant dish, in which Onions pack each song full-to-the brim with multiple variations of their chirpy, choppy barber-shop glee-pop. If you ever wondered what The Shins arm-wrestling with The Everly Brothers over who can play the better (and faster) hopscotch math-indie would sound like, then the majority of “Pleasure Blast” provides the answer.

Songs abound with ideas, wit, time signature changes and a vast armoury of vocal phrasings, tics and harmonies. But it’s a record that never stands still. There’s moments of social documentary vérité in the tattoos, pregnancy and knickers-round-your-knees opener ‘An IE or A Y” then ‘Word of Mouth’ takes you to the Pyramids of Giza and the Colossus of Rhodes. ‘Belle Vue Fair’ has a scally-wag roughness mixed up with its swiftly twitching rhythms (reminding me of lost-in-action Liverpool trio Hot Club de Paris). ‘Never Gonna Change’ is joyfully sunny-but-sad Buddy Holly-goes-surf tunefulness. The pneumatic bounce of ‘Silicon’ manages to sound (to these ears) like an amalgam of 80s quirk-pop lunatics Stump and 90s Swedish melodic alt-rockers The Wannadies yet make perfect sense. Throughout singer-bassist James Brown swings from flighty falsetto to mock-stern bass tones as deftly as the band (Martin Sherwood on guitar and Chris Vaughton on drums) change musical gears with some gorgeous three part harmonies and plenty of ‘ah-oos’, ‘bah-bahs’ etc thrown in too.

There’s no single song that represents the album as a whole but ‘Louise Louise’ comes close, combining ‘Chutes Too Narrow’ whimsy and pep with ADHD jitters, singing romantically of “kisses like peppermint” but also of Charlie Manson and domestic bedsit blues (“it’s fuckin’ freezing in here”). Not everything in the vitamin-packed 35 minutes is successful. ‘Il Seres’ is a lovely acapella - and fitting - coda to the record but a few tracks earlier the acoustic ‘Wide Eyes’ is another change of tempo but feels too close to saccharine Paolo Nuitini territory for comfort. It is however less than two minutes long and a rare, slight misstep in an otherwise sure-footed and slow-cooked treat of an album.

Onions Pleasure Blast [BUY]

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