Monday, June 05, 2017
Album Review :: Alt-J - Relaxer
June 2 2017 (Infectious Music)
Words: Alison Mack
For this third full-length, produced by Charlie Andrew, the trio turn in a record of a mere eight tracks which falls under 40 minutes in length, and which lyrically traverses everything from love, sex snd crushes to, death, the odd literary reference, and Tasmanian devils.
While still retaining a semblance of their earlier folk rock influences, 'Relaxer' sees them incorporate experimental flashes in this long-awaited follow-up to 2014’s 'This Is All Yours'. Opener '3WW' is a hazy and hypnotic intro, with Gus Unger-Hamilton’s vocals arrive to pin the 'love and loss on Mexico' themed track, on which Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell guests.
From here, there's a reworking of 'House of the Rising Sun' (with some of the lyrics changed, and verses added), and the primal garage-rock of 'Hit Me Like That Snare'. 'Adeline', meanwhile, described by the band as about a Tasmanian devil who falls in love with a woman as he watches her swim, with the song describing his feelings toward her, provides a multi-layered atmospheric five minutes.
'Deadcrush' builds over a heavy bass line, while Joe Newman delivers some near incomprehensible lyrics: "You're my DC oh Lee / oh Man Ray went cray cray over you...Anna Bolina
Maid of honour / Not your sister, fearful temper...Henry Tudor left you lifeless / You're my DC oh Anna, oh." Supposedly pulling in Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn into a modern-day spin on "Joe's deadcrush, Man Ray, the second about Anne Boleyn, Gus's," the band say.
Elsewhere, 'In Cold Blood' - the title of a book by Truman Capote, and a song first startrd back in the band's early formation - is punchy and dynamic with a brass section brought in, and closer 'Pleader', inspired by Richard Llewelyn's book How Green Was My Valley? which is referenced in the opening line, goes out on a big finale of strings, choristers from Ely Cathedral, an organ, and dulcimer which give a church ambience to the track.
Dark, oddly encompassing, 'Relaxer' may not be to everyone's taste, but it is certainly an individual work.