Laurence and The Slab Boys - Lo-Fi Disgrace
Written and recorded in Berlin by noise-pop collective Laurence and The Slab Boys, Lo-Fi Disgrace can only be described as a moving and emotionally eclectic debut album. Made up of Larry Reid, previously the guitarist of Scottish band, The Cinematics, bassist Adam Goemans , and an array of friends who have participated in recordings, dubbed by Reid as 'more of a collective than a band', these musicians are a far cry from the expected sound of The Cinematics. The band, named after the trilogy, The Slab Boys, written by Scottish playwright John Byrne, produced this eleven track wonder of a debut album after their transition from the grimey streets of Glasgow to the cultural hub that is Berlin; such evolution, particularly in the musical and instrumental stylings of Reid, is undoubtedly evidenced throughout this noisy dream-pop album.
Reid's drawling and distinctive vocals pump life and emotion into Lo-Fi Disgrace, and are not unlike those of Ian Curtis and the rawness his vocals brought to Joy Division. In terms of dark subject matter and the thematically melancholy, the tracks on this album are further comparable to Joy Division at their darkest, or the political and rebellious musical approach of The Smiths. However, in this album, Laurence and The Slab Boys present the listeners with a struggle between public and private, and convey through the variety of emotion displayed on the tracks, a contest between personal and worldly issues. Third song of the album, 'Do For Diamonds' focuses, through its stark lyricism, on the death of love and the breakup of personal relationships, and spawns the inventive title of the debut, "you killed it in haste, like some lo-fi disgrace." Reid's pained croon, and a distinctive yet mellow rock 'n' roll guitar riff throughout, work together to create a touchingly powerful song, and an emotive introduction to the album. "I would not do for diamonds, what you have done for free," may arguably be one of the most memorable and repeated set of lyrics on Lo-Fi Disgrace, given extra staying power by Reid's soft vocals. Contrastingly, 'Naïve' focuses both on imperialism and consumerism, while 'Mushroom' with its noisy and unclear, guitar centred base line screams censorship, death and the fear of war, with poignant chorus, "I fear we're gonna die young." Though this track, and others on the album, are somewhat instrumentally cheerful, with drums and an array of guitars creating distinct and catchy riffs, the tone throughout remains painful.
Throughout Lo-Fi Disgrace, Laurence and The Slab Boys jump from the somewhat uplifting, with fast-paced instrumentation keeping certain tracks, such as 'Space Dream#2', almost upbeat, to folksy and intrinsically dark. Despite the obvious range in instrumental style, the album maintains a sinister and poignant edge in each of its songs. As the album is brought to its pensive close, 'Cry Wolf' and 'Mothers Kiss Your Children' ensure that it is well and truly rounded off in as brooding a way as it opened. The distinct and lonesome drumbeat of 'Cry Wolf', followed by Reid's enchanting vocals make this track a poignant final thought, and arguably allow it to embody the life- blood of the entire debut.
While 'Mushroom' is the only single currently available on iTunes for a touch of pre-album release listening, it provides merely a taste of the talent of Laurence and The Slab Boys, and the musical ingenuity displayed on this touching, corker of a debut. In terms of its apocalyptic and almost macabre undertones, 'Mushroom' does provide a sense of Lo-Fi Disgrace's melancholy air. However, there is such a great deal of depth, both emotional and political, in this album, that it really needs to be belted out from start to finish.