With a simple glance at the title of Castrovalva’s newest output, one almost knows what to expect straight away. Any band putting out a record with such an incredible mouthful across the cover is aiming for nothing less than the ostentatious and, with some sadness, I have to state that this is possibly the only thing the Leeds trio do manage to achieve.
From the opening rattled whispers of the short first track “Best Friends Go To Purgatory”, the one thing that reigns throughout this record is utter confusion. The band define themselves as “noise-hop”, and while I’m not sure about the hop, noise is definitely one way to describe this release. An incoherent mish-mash of styles, attempting to combine electronic backing tracks, overtuned guitar riffs and grating screamed vocals, this almost feels more like a failed experiment than a finished product. Immaturity appears to be the key amongst the few vocals that are distinguishable from the audio assault that “In Our Prime” provides, the roaring refrain of “Don’t be a pussy” standing as the best – if that’s even the right word to use – example. However, this is one issue which is admittedly redressed somewhat, as by the album’s fourth track, “Dining With The Pope”, the verses can almost be said to contain some sense and lyrics which might work in a more straightforward musical setting, before descending back into chaos with “Donut” – an accurate description of the songwriter if I ever heard one.
This album is also guilty of what I’ve always felt to be one of the most common crimes in music today – striving to achieve some level of shock value with some of the most gratuitous usage of language they can possibly muster. Of those few vocals which can be understood on most of this album’s tracks, every other word seems to be four letters long. While swearing certainly has its rightful place in music – just ask Motley Crue – and indeed in language in general, pointlessly throwing out f words every few seconds just points to a songwriter’s own uninventiveness, and this album stands as a strong example of this.
If there is any positive that can be taken from this album, it exists purely in the work of drummer Daniel Brader. His beats behind the tracks are the only thing that threaten to force the listener to do anything other than switch off, and the best thing I can say for him is that in another band, in another style, he could become a serious name in the business. Sadly, he’s never going to do that behind a truly awful frontline. Anthony Wright’s bass guitar lines are disjointed and practically sound confused, while frontman Leemun Smith’s vocals are nothing short of painful – either an irritating whine, or an ear-splitting screech, accompanied by some truly shocking attempts at rap; not to mention a misguided attempt at falsetto during the opening of final track “A Vulture’s Eyes”. The band have achieved some success in the past, garnering positive reviews and praise from sources like Drowned In Sound and even the NME. If I may be permitted a dose of brutal honesty to end this review, listening to this release, I truly have no idea how.