Leaning more towards synthesizers offers Menace Beach a whole new world of possibilities for their sound, but they seem slightly hesitant to go all the way with it. For an album that gets exciting moments out of their electronic explorations and vicious punk energy, they only hit cohesion when they decide to blend them together. While there’s not any dead-weight in this record, it does end up a little to disjointed for its own good.
As guitars jitter around with a loose rhythm and swing, “Black Rainbow Sound” slowly starts to fire off in every which direction. Though its straightforward delivery means it takes about half its runtime to really feel immediate, it runs with this feeling once it gets there. “Satellite” moves with a notably abrasive and weirdly retro sound, meaning it too takes some time to get into, but doesn’t always offer a satisfying resolution for fans. This decidedly against-the-grain approach leaves the song a little uneven throughout.
Menace Beach hit a powerful mix of production and writing however on “Crawl in Love” where their dynamic rock is messed with from enough angles to feel unusual and fun. Building this to a peak multiple times, there’s enough energy to keep you moving around and exploring the song more on repeat listens. Tones of B-52’s style echoes through “Tongue” making for a quirky but distinct and accessible song. This primal tone and sense of unease actually allows the song to stand out well while never being too complicated to just listen to passively.
Menace Beach instead play with rock on a more genre-based level, on the appropriately named “Mutator.” With this in mind, the song slowly moves between these ideas of loud rock and synth-pop with a little bit of weird charm for something that is mind-bending if you manage to stick with it. “8000 Molecules” sinks into their magical synth tones however for something slow but measured to impact listeners on every note. This more methodical approach sees them really getting the right emotion out of every instrument and making listeners feel a part of their world.
Between the swinging “Modern Love”-style beats and the explosive choruses of “Hypnotiser Keeps the Ball Rolling” there’s a frantic feeling that keeps the song upbeat and exciting. By delivering this and building it all through a kind of unhinged spirit, the song constantly pushes its own sound further than its last chorus. As they switch back to simplistic synth-pop on “Holy Crow” the electronic luster starts to embrace more of the record’s guitar elements, without losing the core of its song. At this point though, the seams between the album’s electronic and analogue sections is a little more obvious.
“Watermelon” distills all the burning energy of Menace Beach’s distorted sounds into one ball of heat. This grit mixed with some emotionally wide verse sections, makes each rip of feedback feel like a guttural release. They take a similarly expanding approach to “(Like) Rainbow Juice” with dense synths and raw nature that wants to break out at any given minute. Even in the spoken-word section the tension makes you wonder what they might do with this next.
Words by Owen Maxwell