THE MADELINE RUST - 21 GIRLS - Album review by Chris McGranaghan.
My association with The Madeline Rust goes back a few years.TOR Recordsreleased the highly acclaimed Truth Or Consequences in 2014. Truth or Consequences explored the mindset of a notorious serial killer in the town of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico and laid bare an emotional landscape that came close to understanding the impact on family, friends and indeed the killer himself. Not easy territory, but this band carry it off in an empathetic and understanding manner that never patronises and certainly doesn't glorify anything other than the power of love to overcome.
The band's raison d'etre is that they write songs about serial killers, so a new album was always going to be a challenge, that is unless you are The Madeline Rust. Detailed research of the subject matter is key in the creation of music that explores rejection, power, perfection and they have dug deep in the overall concept of 21 Girls. The album takes inspiration from the writing of criminal psychologists and profilers, and real life accounts of violence and murder from the memories of both victims and perpetrators. 21 Girls is a journey into the mind of one man, and the twenty one women that know him.
Musically, 21 Girls is a giant musical leap for the band, the addition of a second guitarist in Gerallt Ruggiero has enhanced the overall sound and added new depths and colour. Quite simply, there is nothing remotely close to this band, they are unique. Yes, you can hear "influences" in there - good company too though - Sonic Youth, Blondie, Led Zeppelin and more. In Lucy Morrow, they have a lyricist, vocalist and bass player with enough pop sensibilities to understand wordcraft, melody, tension and delivery. Songs can descend from soaring soul searching screaming to quiet, gentle softness. Morrow can reduce the listener to an emotional wreck in seconds, she possesses an extraordinary voice and talent and probably the best female rock voice in the UK right now. Martin Syvret is a powerhouse in the mould of John Bonham on drums, an immense sound and totally in tune with what is being delivered. Like all great bands, it works, it clicks, you can hear the togetherness in the sound, you cannot create music of this continued intensity without a deep understanding of each other.
Lurking in the background, head bowed over his instrument as if in some ritual communion with his inner being is Aly McNab on guitars. Nothing contrived, more pedals than a fleet of omnibuses and a sound that is the backbone of the band. Layers of controlled noise from a sensitive guitarist who wrenches pure pain out of the instrument whilst taking solos that would make Tom Verlaine cry. There is space for each member to shine, this is especially clear on Julia's Love where McNab and Ruggiero share lead guitar parts. The vision of the The Madeline Rust is centred entirely within the music, there are passing nods to early influences but they deliver something that is entirely their own, there are no freeloaders or prisoners here. There is no posturing, preaching, flash or "look at me" in this band. They deliver loud, emotional and powerful music, take it or leave it. 21 Girls delivers, it takes the template set with Truth or Consequences and expands upon it. This album is the full package of writing performance and atmosphere from beginning to end.
Special mention should be made for the artwork of Gavin Morrow for the overall design of the gatefold sleeve and video. Morrow is among a new breed of designers much needed in this business. The sleeve reflects the band's interest in the rural landscapes of New Mexico whilst the distorted female head images on the inside of the gatefold sleeve are reminiscent of Peyton Place,Chappaquiddick and the America of the Kennedys and the Velvet Underground. Artistically, it works on many levels and it is wonderful to see a band taking the time, care and attention to get it all right.
Sonically the album is superb, the mastering makes the music shine with well balanced speaker separation on all tracks. The bass live is particulary strong, cello and flute are clear and vibrant. Ruggiero pulled the sound together and mixed the album, great work. Put on the headphones and set them to "Stun"
Contender for album of the year 2017
5***** - essential album.
LUCY MORROW AND FUZZY FELT. LUCY HAS BEEN KEEPING BUSY DURING LOCKDOWN CREATING PIECES OF POP ART OF FUZZY FELT. THERE IS A SUPEB COLLECTION AVAILABLE ON INSTAGRAM AND A GREAT LITTLE FILM FROM THE BBC