Over the last few years, Leeds has been quietly asserting its place as one of the UK’s most reliable cities for guitar music. Bands like Alt-J, Pulled Apart By Horses and Sky Larkin have consistently been putting out material that can’t help but restore people’s faith in the classic format. Within this scene, one group who’ve been etching out a serious name for themselves is Menace Beach. The punk five-piece have been dropping excellent releases without much fuss over the last six years. Their most recent releases, 2015’s Ratworld and 2017’s Lemon Memory, are excellent examples of what this group does best: tight, fuzzy punk songs with the right amount of sweet and sour melodies and dream pop sensibility to keep things interesting. With their latest LP, Black Rainbow Sound, they haven’t deviated much from this formula. Fortunately though, if something as good as this ain’t broke, then why fix it?
It is rare for an album title to so succinctly describe the sound contained within. Words fail to fully capture the nuances and intricacies of the aural plain, but within three words, the band have neatly captured everything that is encompassed by these 10 songs. This record is a tapestry of darkness and light, interweaving and co-existing in an intoxicating form. The album opener is drenched in this thick bass that soaks up most of the mid-range and propels the song with a reckless abandon. As we advance through this soundscape, bright cheerful synths dip, noisy guitar warbles and a multitude of voices come at you from left, right and centre, colliding into something very special. These inky textures getting all mixed up with a cacophonous colourful streak to create the titular sound. It’s a simple trick and one they do on every track, but also one that really works. What the album lacks in variety, it more than makes up for in terms of sheer quality. Tracks like ‘Satellite’, ‘Hypnotiser Keeps The Ball Rolling’ and ‘Watermelon’ are sheer delights. They’re big, fun and uncomplicated and have improbably good hooks that stick with you for days on end. They’re more than happy to throw more than they can around the place if only to see what happens when it all hits the floor. It’s that commitment to that their singular goal that makes the LP so bloody enticing.
There is one point on this album where the band push the boat slightly and works very well in their favour. In the second half of the album, ‘8000 Molecules’ shows up and demonstrates with a stoic resolve that there is more in their arsenal than its peers would suggest. Foregoing the loud quiet loud, rip-roaring energy that defines every other piece in this collection, this one opts for a much more subdued tone. It plays up the dream pop and really focuses on capturing a certain delicate vibe. It’s an important track too because it gives the album a little bit breathing room that helps to stave off the fatigue that can come from running at full tilt for so long. So while Black Rainbow Sound won’t reshape a scene or launch Menace into the mainstream, it stands as a testament to their songwriting ability. Approach it as a collection of ten tight, enchanting distorted pop songs and you’ll be given ten wonderful gifts. Will Murphy