The McNamara’s brothers have undergone somewhat of a facelift in recent months, and as founding members of Leeds psych rock trio Formes, Steve (bass/vocals) and Jordan (drums/vocals) McNamaras had firmly planted roots in dreamy psychedelia and 90s Brit pop with a slew of singles including 2013’s Absence Of The Noise and Alone – both having more in common with outings from bands like Pink Floyd and The Verve than anything as decidedly dark as their latest (full length) Dysphoria Part 1; Rob Hemingway (aka “The Alchemist”) rounds out the cast on guitars/keyboards and lives up to his reputation and mystique as ‘the man behind the mask behind the strings’ – the same intricate guitar passages, textured melodies and general pastiche of alt-rock styles persist, but those Brit pop roots have grown sour and black; venomous riffing muscle now lines those dreamy kid gloves as just another dimension of a uniquely crafted and intelligent sound. “Exploring a man’s constant battle with his own mind” is the record’s ultimate thematic caption as the band explores the polarity of the human condition and it’s inherent (and necessary) evil.
The tremolo-blast beat and jazz infused tribal rhythmics of Through This Hole epitomize the group’s new found philosophy and (album specific) concept emphasis on polarizing ‘light and shade’ – and like some of the more acclaimed artists who’ve turned over grimier, grittier leaves in search of unreconciled demons (the murk and tortured drone of Anton Newcombe’s My Bloody Underground or the numbing discordance and cryptic spoken word of Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising for example), the search itself has proven to be more of an asset than a singular foray into ‘experimental territory’.
The brothers assume two distinct (vocal) personalities – Steve‘s hazy croon plays lead and acts as the humanized counterpart to Jordan‘s aggressive rasp; there is indeed a ‘schizophrenic’ vibe to the record’s eight cuts, where the band pushes through several different clashing styles in a single track – a dangerous move in most settings, and could easily devolve into a complete mess outside this album’s context of competing demons and impending psychosis. The swirling grooves and jagged clash of songs like Tumult and Dead Ends rock with surprising fluency, however, and although you feel like you’re pulled in a thousand different directions, each destination is wholly rewarding; I Am Nothing homes in on traditional structure, relying on slow building reverbed acoustics and peaking amped chorus swells – the trio uses this ‘attack in waves’ technique for much of the LP, where subtlety and quiet interludes are just layovers before the next onslaught.
But the delicate acoustics and bittersweet harmonies of album highlight Smile Club sees a return to the neo-psychedelia of bands like Ride and The Morning After Girls – certainly a nod to their core influences and a welcome segue to balance the brooding disconcertion of tracks like the pounding instrumental closer I Don’t Feel Safe or nauseant sub sonic droner I Will Make You Ill; but whether the band decides to retain this distinct darkness for subsequent releases is unclear at this point – however, if the group’s ultimate message is one of duality, I can only imagine we’ll be seeing that face for a while…and maybe then we’ll all take a cue, turn off the lights and dig a little deeper.
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore