The Membranes have returned with a new double album ‘What Nature Gives…Nature Takes Away’ via the legendary Cherry Red imprint. Their eighth studio album is set release on the 7th June and is a clear front runner for the Mercury Music Award.
Forever bold, they’ve again thrown down the gauntlet to their peers to match their psychedelic post-punk creativity. The inclusion of a choir raised eyebrows on announcement considering how flat ‘The Kinks Choral Collection’ and Oasis’ live use of the Crouch End Choir was. Here however, The Membranes have embedded the choir as dangerous weapon in the arsenal.
Lead of single ‘Strange Perfume’ is a soaring piece of melodrama. With nods to Bauhaus and The Blinders, it floods the senses on this animalistic funked up piece of punk.
With the recent climate change protests having taken place, The Membranes’ approach to highlighting the impending Armageddon is exemplary timed. Chris Packham’s appearance may roll a few people’s eyes but, the iconic presenter delivers with the panache of Vic Templar on The Claim’s cult classic ‘Mike The Bike’.
The wonder of nature continues on ‘The Murmuration of Starlings in Blackpool Pier’. Featuring folk legend Judy Collins and news reports, it details the flock of birds swirling the famous pier. A reflection of nature’s majesty this is not though. The sinister humanity of Pulp’s ‘This Is Hardcore’ combines with front man John Robb’s savage delivery to conjure images of flailing life and human destruction.
The album hits an astonishingly powerful high point on ‘The 21st Century Is Killing Me’. Robb channels a husky Ian Brown meets Shaun Ryder vocal on this psychedelic choir fuelled affair. As the choir loops “Breathe in, breathe out”, the magnitude of the song title builds to anlmost unbearable reflection of the last 10 years. Years of austerity, Bullingdon arrogance, climate neglect, shit trains, expensive trains, Trump, Farrage, Tommy Yaxley Lennon, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, Corbyn failing to lead, Lammy not leading, Mogg’s dodgy 7 million, and Hartley Brewer & O'Brien two sides of the same pathetic LBC coin. It all comes crashing down on this hypnotic plea for humanity to pull its finger out!
There are however, moments of post-punk pop to cut through this tension. ‘A Murder of Crows’ is a furious Happy Mondays meets The Fall punk-funk stomper. ‘Black Is The Colour’ takes the iconic sound of Hooky’s bass to modern day Fat White Family and The Blinders dystopian landscapes. ‘Mother Ocean / Father Time’ calls upon the unruly energy of The Stooges via Death In Vegas.
Meanwhile ‘What Nature Gives...Nature Takes Away’ harness’ the sexed up riffs of Elastica, the desolation of Joy Division and the melodious melancholy of Johnny Marr to deliver a glorious of pop experimentation.
The mainstream music press, too often says things like “where are all the bands”, “where are the outsiders, the rule breakers, the risk takers”. They never went anywhere; this decade has been a great one for music. It’s just been chronically undervalued and under documented.
It’s been a decade of psyche influences. Kicked off by the hazy lo-fi Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, it took until 2013 to have its real moment, Primal Scream’s ‘More Light’. This was joined by The Blinders’ ‘Columbia’ last year and now The Membranes have added to it. There is a real sense that they have left every ounce of their soul in the recording studio for this release. The intensity and the struggle is tangible at times and, it should be serially recognised!