Coming out of the excellent and ever-expanding South Wales scene, Spider Kitten are a truly monstrous proposition, both in name and on record. While the band has gone through several incarnations to reach this current line-up, core member Chi Lameo has been a constant driving force behind the band, his musical whims and diverse tastes resulting in albums of drone, noise and – with Cougar Club – unadulterated sludge, doom and sleaze. I won’t pretend to have heard all of Spider Kitten’s stuff – indeed some discographies attest to there being nineteen Spider Kitten releases in all (including live albums and splits with other South Wales artists) – but more than a decade into their incredibly diverse career, Spider Kitten have just released what may well be a defining record in their catalogue.
Perhaps the main thing that will strike you as you listen to Cougar Club is how solid the band sound and it’s fair to say that Spider Kitten are solid from bottom to top. Heavy-hitting drummer Chris West provides the essential backbone upon which Chi, Luke, Al, and Ptew generously ladle fuzz, samples, effects and layered, melodic vocals to intoxicating effect. The musical vision on Cougar Club is, presumably, to level anything that get in Spider Kitten’s way because from the off it feels like you’re riding on the back of the slowly-lumbering, aforementioned monstrosity. Opening track “Twin Obscenities” sets the foundation for the entire album musically; a chugging river-bed of lava, bubbling bass and fuzzed-out guitars, and melodic singing – something of a rarity among bands of a similar ilk these days. This formula spills into the thunderous and freewheeling “Burdened” which is propelled along (for the most part) by a single stream-rolling note, leaving much of the melody to the bassline and frontman Chi.
“Dark World” takes elements of Electric Wizard’s murky doom, the Melvins’ rhythmic chugging and NWOBHM dual-harmony soloing to create a unique and unusual atmosphere that is true to the song’s title. There is a moment of respite in the form on penultimate acoustic number “Time Takes Its Toll” – a total gem of a song, equal parts dusty Americana, blues and Kyuss’ “Space Cadet.” But final track, the epic “Cougar Club”, may be the boldest song here as it essentially takes all of the elements that make up the rest of the album and condenses it into one massive bitter pill for you to swallow. Starting with a lumbering (again, the only word for it) assault of fuzz bass and guitar, the song crashes along at near-perfect head-nodding tempo as the whole band shout vocals in threatening unison before opening up into a wide expanse of extended bass solos, retro synthesiser jams and unadulterated Pink Floyd prog. Seriously, they make this Cougar Club sound like the most fucking epic thing ever.
I don’t know if there is just something in the water there, but many of the alternative bands that come out of Wales seem to have an eclectic ear for making music, finding ways to turn tried-and-tested formulas on their heads by introducing quirky, unexpected elements to surprise their audiences. Spider Kitten are no exception, and it’s fair to say that their combination of sludge, doom, blues, drone, 80s space electronica and prog make them one of the more interesting bands around at the moment. They may have a bit of a revolving door policy which makes it almost impossible to nail down a definitive line-up but Cougar Club feels definitive because it’s an album with a cohesive musical vision, played with conviction and recorded extremely well. It’s a quality album that is absolutely full of personality, and in the current scene where many new bands consider songwriting secondary to riffing-for-riffing’s-sake, what more can you ask for?
Label: Rugland Records
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin