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Album Review: Menace Beach's 'Black Rainbow Sound'


A year after releasing Lemon Memory, Leeds-based noise rock duo Menace Beach return with their third album titled Black Rainbow Sound. Though their prior release proved to be a solid effort by the vigorous outfit, it was musically unspectacular and lacked the cacophonous viciousness of their debut Ratworld. Nevertheless, by moving out of their comfort zone, Black Rainbow Sound harnesses the vitality of their debut and launches them into an otherworldly realm tethered between no-wave and synth-coated noise rock. The result is a quarrel-less marriage of experimentalism with a faint pop sound and Menace Beach’s best record to date. In the past, Menace Beach emphasized noise incrusted guitar licks and feedback with elements of shoegaze dispersed throughout. However, with their third project, the band fronted by Ryan Needham and Liza Violet restrains its unkempt guitars and opts for a vintage synth haze.

While the deepened accentuation of analog electronics forms the backbone of Black Rainbow Sound’, Menace Beach’s distinctively uproarious guitar play remains the driving spirit. Vocally, the combination of Violet and Needham recalls the iconic interchange between Kim Gordon and Thurstan Moore. While their voices do not wreck as much havoc as the aforementioned luminaries, the duet of Violet and Needham portend a sinisterly impelled atmosphere while managing to produce a slew of dreamy melodies. What Menace Beach has created here is unique—they’ve manufactured an unrepentant sense of minimalism and use of repetition, ala Suicide while embracing the calamitous noise of Dinosaur Jr. Though Black Rainbow Sound wields this hectic dichotomy to near perfection, it’s hard to ignore its infectious alt-rock polish that allows for an easy-on-the-ears listen from start to finish. Firing on all cylinders with some meat and potatoes alt-rock sensibilities, the opening title track (ft. Brix Smith of The Fall) is commenced by the apprehensive and incessant incantation of the album’s title: “Black/Rainbow/Sound/Black/Rainbow/Sound.” Though it is repetitive, it's equally enchanting with its no holds barred approach of instrumentation. Cyclical yet bewitching, the krautrock-tinged “Tongue” writhes through listeners' ears with a menacingly rhythmic synth bass undulating beneath a surf rock exterior. With a dizzying drum machine and waltz-y synth melody of ‘8000 Molecules,’ the band channels their inner Beach House by taking a step back from their manic demeanor. With Violet’s unsteady falsetto funneled through a static-y tunnel, listeners are sedated and provided a glimpse of the band’s eclectic ability at tonal shifts. With Needham conjuring up Peter Murphy’s guttural delivery, ghostly keys wail beneath impenetrable percussion and a burgeoning bassline of “Hypnotiser Keeps The Ball Rolling,” a simple but rowdy post-punk gem throwing it back to the likes of Bauhaus and PiL. The entirety of Black Rainbow Sound is full of left hooks—while some arrangements bear some similarities (See (Like) Rainbow Juice) to one another, Menace Beach substantiate themselves as masters of the element of surprise. Combining the depressive milieu of weird synth sounds from yesteryear with reverberating bursts of guitar noise, Black Rainbow Sound is an ornate amalgamation of varying alt-rock influences that add up to an impressive whole. Though they wear their predecessor’s on their sleeve, the fusion of old allows for a sporadic experience, devoid of any dull moments. Menace Beach’s Black Rainbow Sound is one of the most accessible and thrilling noise rock albums out there out there and it's not even close. Though a deluge of feedback and harsh distortion presents itself throughout this album, the mixture of dated synths, simple guitar riffs, and harmoniously apathetic vocals rescue the band from subdued depths left by Lemon Memory while propelling the band to new heights.

THE 405 RATING: 7.5/10


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