The early 1990s were the final frontier for indie-rock, the big fucking apocalypse party, and the time when even the man wanted to stick it to the man. Alas, such a time no longer exists. We live in the 2015 where indie rock must fight from the margins to be recognised and relevant. Enter, Menace Beach, a Leeds collective that have crafted a delightful pastiche of the 90s fuzz fiesta. Like other proprietors of indie rock today, such as Speedy Ortiz, Cloud Nothings, Yuck, California X, and Joanna Gruesome, Menace Beach delve into the rich pool of 90s guitar music to discover their own voice. Despite worrying the music on display is prone to being obscured by revivalism, there is no denying Ratworld is bursting with melody and a loveable quirkiness.
Masterminded by Ryan Needham and Liza Violet, Menace Beach craft well assured pop, making for something instantly enjoyable. No song outstays it’s welcome and the album is complete in just over half an hour. The only song pushing the four-minute mark, Blue Eye, provides a permissible exploration of some of the more experimental tones of the 90s, recalling the ethereal swells of Slowdive. However, the departure is short lived. Menace Beach have a tight grip on the wheel of this time machine and its ready to move. Guitars drool, vocals slur, and organs bend. It’s easy to imagine every kid that’s ever obsessed over the different types of fuzz that a guitar can produce will be fondling their pedal knobs for months trying to recreate the irritant charm of this record.
Nevertheless, the 90s comparisons will manifest in Menace Beach like a plague. Restricting oneself in past genres will demand questioning of whether a band can recreate something that is wholly theirs. Thankfully, Ratworld is not just the cumulative sum of its influences. Compact but nuanced, the layers of this record slowly reveal themselves to be deeper than a few rehashed riffs from the past. Tracks like Ratworld and Infinite Donut sound paradoxically similar to Nirvana, circa In Utero, covering Oasis. It’s an absurd and alluring occurrence that isn’t distinct on Ratworld. Carving sculptures out of second hand scrap, Menace Beach construct a sound that is their own. Any questions of relevance and authenticity are left at the margins.
Words: Evan Clements