‘Nuclear Envelope’ is the kind of album that you don’t expect to hear these days; it’s usually all delicate singer songwriters, or some sort of experimental synth album where the percussion is recorded via an ancient clock radio. It can occasionally sound a bit woolly, and then something like this turns up and it’s a reminder that people can play guitars and things.
The bands biography describes them as “Blur meets the Beach Boys, with beautiful harmonies and punchy riffs.”, and I would argue that some of that is correct. The harmonies and punchy riff section, I remain less convinced by the other bit, certainly not The Beach Boys.
Opening track, ‘She’s My Food’ has a twisty riff and is harmony rich with great lines like “I treated you like a number two when you should be number one” – I’m taking this the sincere way, and suppressing a snigger – and “when I’m hungry, she’s my food” – Again, I’m thinking spiritually, not literally. That would end up a long distance relationship after he’s turned her into a number two. Anyway, I digress, back to the music. It has a slight Allo, Darlin’ feel to it in places, and at a shade over two minutes it is a welcome blast to open up proceedings.
‘Idiom Idiot’ has been garnering some airplay, and despite it being what I think is a terrible title, it’s a song where you can see the Blur influence, but only subtly, in the backing vocals, it sounds a like Graham Coxon style b/v. The song has a bit of a glam rock style opening, but has a surf twang about the rest of it. These are clearly the sounds of a band in thrall to lots of styles, and are determined to get them all into their allotted time together. ‘Idiom Idiot’ seems to have about 4 parts to it, and each part could probably sustain a fine song alone.
‘Hot Phone’ has an interesting, Darren Hayman-esque feel to it. It’s a subject as old as the hills, that one about talking to a girl for ages on the phone, but it has the modern slant of the hot ear and phone generated by long conversations on a mobile. When do we start to see songs about Skype, not long, if they haven’t been done already? Although I do mean good ones, not YouTube fodder. Credit has to go to this song for rhyming “beserk” with “and going round in circ..les.” Also worth a mention is the line “I’m a bookworm, but I never read my bills.”
The variety of styles continues with ‘Pigeon Shit Bridge’ that starts out like some sort of sea-shanty, and develops into a waltz; a waltz about being mugged for your iPod in the shitty end of town. It’s nice to see The Little Philistines are not just there for the nice things in life.
The album closes with ‘Hugo Says’, and ‘Nuclear Envelope’. The former is a class-war song that is redolent of Blur’s ‘Popscene’, and has a very enjoyable thrash towards the finish line in the last 50 seconds.
Final track, ‘Nuclear Envelope’ is a different kettle of fish again. Apparently a nuclear envelope “is a double lipid bilayer that encloses the genetic material in eukaryotic cells” according to Wikipedia, so now you know. It’s got a The Monochrome Set feel to it, circa Strange Boutique, or ‘B-I-D spells BID’. The song breaks down at 2 minutes in and continues to build itself back up from there with call and response vocals and trumpets, it increases in speed until it stops, which further echoes the instrumental ‘Etcetera Stroll’ on ‘Strange Boutique’.
It’s a frantic way to end a good album, and one that displays all of the bands approaches in one handy 4 minute song.
Other comments about the band have described them as “sharp indie-pop perfection”, “reminds me of early ‘Futureheads”, “britpop at it’s most contagious” and “spiky post-punk with a real tune”. The fact that some quite luminary sources cannot agree is a good thing. The Little Philistines are capable of great variety, and clearly have a love of lots of music. It’s a joy to hear them.
The album is out on 8th October 2012, with a launch on the 5th October 2012 at Wilmington Arms, London.