Label: Warp Records
Battles have always been a band that has intrigued me. Having been introduced to them with their collection of EP’s (Tras, B EP and EP C) I found their song writing to be very powerful, and yet couldn’t help but feel that I was listening to a band who hadn’t quite reached their potential. But it looks like all that has changed with debut full length, Mirrored.
The album’s eleven tracks are certainly not for the faint of heart. After a first listen you will more likely than not be convinced that your ears have just witnessed the most nonsensical album of the year. A fifty-one minute passage of gibberish and absurdity if you will. Opening track ‘Race:In’ features a teasingly simple sequence of ooh’s and aah’s, before suddenly erupting into what could easily be mistaken for a Christmas song with sleigh bells and all. Leading single ‘Atlas’ takes the sound even further, with ‘singer’ Tyondai Braxton’s digitally assisted voice, sounding like one of the critters from Alvin and the Chipmunks, sweeping across a barn-storming background of pounding drums and erratic guitars which, whether you like it or not, you can’t help but nod your head to.
When Braxton relieves himself of his singing duties however is when the group really get into the swing of things. With ex band members of groups such as Helmet and Don Caballero, it comes as no surprise that these guys can seemingly jam out some incredible music, regardless of its technicality. ‘Tonto’, which seemingly changes tact more times than a Conservative politician, does so with such ease and power it almost baffles the brain. The song, starting quietly and building up to an adrenaline pumping explosion around the three minute mark somehow manages to patiently wind itself down like a car with no petrol that is creeping to a stop.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is on offer in this album. ‘Leyendecker’ sounds like the kind of song Justin Timberlake would put out if he had any balls, despite that the high pitch of the vocals must surely require any balls to be removed.
The bizarre sound that Battles have produced here is probably what makes the album so…fun. This is clearly a band who is not bothered about what people think about when they listen to them, but a group of grown men who are out to have a laugh with their music. With the ominous dominance of so called ‘emo’ music within the alternative genre it is genuinely refreshing to find a band who have no concerns about writing lyrics that delve into the listener’s heart, who do not want to become another aural equivalent of someone holding your hand. If the music on this album were a friend, it would be the slightly odd kid who strives to make everyone laugh, regardless of what self sacrifice that would require.
It might take a lot to get into them, but if you ‘get’ Battles, then there is a lot to love.
Despite taking a few listens to really appreciate, Mirrored is such a fantastical piece of work that it is very difficult not to enjoy any of the tracks on offer here, and is certainly one of the most enjoyably original albums to come out in recent memory. And at the end of the day, surely that’s what music is all about – to be enjoyed?