Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee
Play It Again Sam
A LOT OF DEEP dark water has passed under the gothic bridge since Budgie and Lol Tolhurst first met, the drummers initially bonding when the original three-piece Cure opened for Siouxsie And The Banshees in 1979. It’s taken four decades for circumstances to allow a creative union, however, the pair finally joining hands with Irish producer Jacknife Lee to push the hell-in-a-handcart rhythms of Los Angeles out from the city’s murky concrete spillways and into the half-light.
Originally conceived as an instrumental album – Tolhurst and Budgie on synths and drums, Lee in charge of guitars and attendant distortions – Los Angeles became a grander collaborative project when Tolhurst contacted LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy to see if he would be interested in contributing vocals, a no-brainer for an Anglophile of Murphy’s gloomy, rain-lashed tastes. Other guests followed: Bobby Gillespie, maybe scenting a chance to use the phrase “suicide mystics” unchecked; Lonnie Holley and Mary Lattimore, and U2's The Edge, whose treated guitar runs through Noche Obscura’s Bower y Electric cityscape and the LA-Dusseldorf of Train With No Station.
There are times, mainly when Gillespie is rhyming “my addiction” with “crucifixion”, that Los Angeles sounds exactly how you might expect: Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR, Death In Vegas’s The Contino Sessions, The Cure and The Creatures prominent on its monochrome mood-board. At moments – We Got To Move, featuring Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, for example – it feels like brutalist big beat, the kind of music pumping out of the sound-system of a customised hearse, plastic skulls on the dashboard, Day-Glo paint on the fins.
Yet even at its most blatant, Los Angeles lands with a visceral impact, rich texturing and smart distortions adding a destabilising wobble. The Suicide churn of the title track is pushed over the edge by Murphy’s feverish state-of-the-nation yelp: “Los Angeles eats its children!/Los Angeles eats its young!” Uh Oh, meanwhile, featuring Starcrawler’s Arrow De Wilde and Mark Bowen of Idles, is a grinding industrial hoe-down, apparently dredged from the bottom of a roadside oil-can. Scrambling the dystopian lexicon further is the brilliant under-the-skin unease of Bodies, sinkhole beats under Lonnie Holley’s urgent vocals, Mary Lattimore’s harp opening up an uncanny urban hinterland in the closing seconds.
“We’ve got a way to go,” sings an oddly Anohni-like Murphy on the junkyard clank of Skins, Echo And The Bunnymen’s Nocturnal Me stripped down for scrap. Despite its state-of-the-dystopian-nation restlessness, however, Los Angeles already feels like a destination record, Lee, Tolhurst and Budgie putting their decades of world-building expertise to excellent use. If the world they have built is on the brink of collapse, it only adds to the thrill.
Los Angles is out November 3 on Play It Again Sam
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