Menace Beach share biting new album, Lemon Memory

Lemon MemoryLemon Memory, the second album from Menace Beach – that is Ryan Needham and Liza Violet, supported by a cast of retainers that would up anyone’s 'six degrees of separation' game exponentially – will do little to dispel the image of the band as being firmly rooted in the 90s. It’s pretty much a truism in any discussion or coverage of the band, and indeed, rather needlessly, we’ve just said it again.

It’s needless because the 90s revival is hardly news to anyone at this stage, is it really? One only need refer to the internationally-accepted barometer of jeans to see that. In musical terms, the various idioms of 90s – insouciant posturing, lo-fi melody worship, lyrical themes of teenage yearning, crunchy, scuzzy guitars, and all manner of electronic and R&B business that have no place in this review – certainly cannot be spoken of as a marginal interest in the music world. Noisey were declaring the 90s revival had gone on long enough as early as 2013, quite rightly reminding us of the terrible, terrible things produced by a decade that was formerly reviled as a low-point in the history of human endeavour (though surely every decade has had suffered such scorn, as shifts in taste form in reaction to them in their immediate aftermath).

With boundaries beyond genres and tribes eroded, and easy access to practically every piece of popular music ever recorded, it’s not really surprising to see reference (and not just the 90s) becoming the rule rather than the exception, and that’s fine – total originality calls for much more careful handling, and probably, it’s not really what you want in the end.

So, shall we attempt to treat this record for what it is? What it is is a slightly different proposition to their very good 2015 debut, Ratworld, which was an exercise in subtlety (remember, references to one side). The guitars were chunky, but the melodies were satisfying and sweet, complemented perfectly by sweet boy-girl vocal performances. Most importantly it was, above all, a fun record. For Lemon Memory, it seems a little bit like they’ve put on their serious hats. It’s a bit more of a rock record, a little bit droney, a little bit aloof.

Straight up, it’s not as strong an album – while what they did with their first record was hardly likely to redefine music, it showed something accomplished in working with a restrained toolkit to make something special. This time around… well, there are enough bands in the world to make this kind of fuzzy growl. Much of the record passes you by in slightly anonymous droning. Perhaps it’s an attempt at creating something more substantial, but again, substance is not what the world needs – less so pantomimed substance in the form of dullness.

There’s still evidence of a talented band in there – those slivers of romance coming through in “Darlatoid” or “Owl”, an almost Beatles-esque chord sequence on the title track, a bit of Britpop-worthy playfulness in “Suck it Out”, and (most joyfully) a nice, big-yet-restrained, perfectly resolved chord sequence on “Watch Me Boil”.

To fall back on another lazy platitude, what Lemon Memory presents us with is a textbook difficult second album. Let’s hope they rediscover their sense of fun before number three.

Release: 20th January 2017, Memphis Industries

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