Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Agent Ribbons - Album Review


Antenna Farm Records
Release date:02/05/11
www.myspace.com/agentribbons

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Early 90s alt is back. When bands like The Pixies made albums that stoked the fires of grunge (before the media hurricane of Nirvana arrived and destroyed everyone else in their path) A time when bands made music that could still be fun, loud and at the same time still push sonic boundaries with the help of maverick artists and producers such as Steve Albini. Beyond spandex and hairspray but not quite at the stage of moaning and self harm (sit down Vedder)

Agent Ribbons have the same thing. Chateau Crone is full with scratchy fuzz guitars that sound like recently un-earthed Nuggets of 60’s garage rock and never outstay their welcome and can flip genre’s on a coin spin over to Broadway to 3am torch songs to lost loves with equal ease.

Agent Ribbons are a 3 piece led all girl band made up of Natalie Gordon (vocals/guitar), Lauren Hess (Drums/Accordion) and the new addition of Natalie Cherie (violinist/cellist) that hail from Austin Texas and with their own version of Baroque rock and pop can also get noisy with the loudest of them without blinking a false eye lash.

The album starts with ‘I’m Alright’ with it’s Nazz like Surf guitar riff that sounds proper Grind house and menacing, imagine Link Wray in a mini skirt. The track although understated is still chugging and forceful with Gordon’s vocals floating on top like an almost Ravonettes bow. Play, listen and repeat for best results.

Although influences are apparent with Agent Ribbons they don’t wear them on their polka dot sleeves, what they present is pure original and the product of their own abilities, where you may smile at tiny Shaggs references and Moe Tucker drum licks you never feel that you’ve heard it before, they are girls that have almost arrived fully formed. An example of this would be the track ‘Dada Girlfriend’ which reminds me of Sea Change era Beck but at the same time without any of his country influences, almost like they borrowed his vision for the afternoon and run it through their own filter.

The biggest change throughout the album is the inclusion of the violin and the burlesque style of ‘I’ll Let You Be My Baby’ is a great example of this. With it’s sleazy Cabaret style and Cherie’s Fiddler on the roof chops making this a great track to listen to and with both funny and sardonic lyrics shows off the level of talent the band has in their locker. I have read in the press that since the album has been completed Cherie has parted company with the group which in my opinion is a real shame as although some critics have said her string additions were superfluous I believe they added another dimension and colour to the bands palette and helped them stick out from being another garage rock duo.

Pete Townsend of The Who has talked about making statements rather than making records or making POP art examples rather than sitting down to pen a cute little ditty like the Tin Pan Alley pro’s before him and something about this frame of mind and outlook reminds me of Agent Ribbons as I listen to the album throughout. They have great one liner’s casually thrown in between the mono drums and single string dentist drill toned guitars. How could you not like a band that sing “I was born to sing sad songs, that go on for more than 3 minutes long and I feel another coming on, now that you’re gone” I mean that’s poetry but without any of the pretensions of those that present themselves as such, and as a track it’s one that in my opinion is one for the ages and one that wouldn’t have surprised me if it had come from a Broadway musical from the 1950s.

As I listen and review albums/EP’s lately I’ve found myself sinking more into the music and giving it the concentration it deserves. Treat this album to a proper listen and they will return the favour with a musical treat and leave you with an audio hug.

3 thumbs up.

'originally posted on 405'

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