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10 for 2014: #8 – Crushed Beaks

 
By on Wednesday, 4th December 2013 at 11:00 am
 

Why are there so many guitar-drums duos these days? Is it an admirable commitment to minimalism? A greed-seated desire to share the gig fee with as few people as possible? Is the typical combination of overweening egotism and middling talent of bassists offputting? Or is it a desire to tour the country in nothing bigger than a Mazda MX-5? Whatever the motivation, the popularity of the axe ‘n’ smacks combo shows no sign of abating. The latest in this rather brutal genre is South London’s Crushed Beaks. Matthew Poile and Alex Morris confess to a modestly maudlin sense of propriety, which has escaped in the videos to their earlier work.

‘Grim’ comes in at under two minutes long (a very good thing) and its video describes a brief, uncomfortable séance in a photo booth, complete with boiled sheep’s head, ritual corn dolly, white blood, and locusts (also, all very good things). ‘Breakdown’ is less manic on all counts, slower, calmer, with an admirably retro feel – Poile makes a good fist of pretending to be a ‘50s crooner, the band makes up for the lack of instrumentation via swathes of reverb, but there’s still a vicious, disturbing undercurrent.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zVB4_D32Zw[/youtube]

2013’s ‘Tropes’ EP is superficially far heavier than the previous single, but still accessible, with a massive, trans-Atlantic power-pop chorus in opener ‘Feelers’; the title track continues in the same vein: guitar riffs not far off grunge; stabbed, punky vocals; lashings of attitude whilst still retaining some semblance of melody. But finest moment of the four-track EP goes to the excellently-named ‘Day Residue’. Despite wishing that Poile would bump his enunciation and his vocal mix just a bit, the melody is lovely, and the sound is widened by an FM synth and multi-layered guitars. If one track had to sum up Crushed Beaks, it’s this: punky yet very pop, disturbing yet friendly, a perfectly 3-minute blast of young energy.

Everything points to a band finding their feet, experimenting with different styles, whilst maintaining a consistent voice and mood. Their ability with melody is what stands out from these early collections, along with that mildly sinister undercurrent – a winning combination. If anyone needed evidence that the guitar band is in fine fettle, even if it features just one guitar helped along with a ton of attitude, then Crushed Beaks is it.

 
 
 

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