Brevity is key. On We Are The Octagonists Exeter four piece An Emergency tip up a box containing every single musical notion they’ve ever had in the centre of the recording studio and go “Right. We’re gonna get all of those into this twenty minute box. Lets go…” And they do. In fact, such is the rate at which they devour ideas, the album only just about makes it through its duration complete; any longer and you worry it may well due itself an injury.
Fortunately it doesn’t, so you’re just left with a heaving mass of bewildering time signatures, jagged riffs and yelping-and-a-hollering that leaves you feeling rather nonplussed, but in a most agreeable manner. Like being hit in the face with a sack full of wet feathers. Imagine Bloc Party with a surfeit of energy covering Fugazi songs, in the shower. Or something.
The other good thing compressing the time frame has done is ensure that some of the lesser flights-of-fancy aren’t stretched beyond their natural breaking point. Well, mostly. The fifteen or so seconds of Killer Bob where the two guitarists seem to be playing different songs spoils things a bit, but while there’s a delicious moment where you can almost feel them looking up at each other to mouth “What the fuck are you doing?!”, it’s such a short interlude that you’d have to be a real curmudgeon for it to matter.
Besides, it’s slightly amusing – in the best possible way. It also follows the wicked invention of Terror! And Irony Nein Danke, both of which, with their rhythmical U-turns and ferocious start-stop dynamics, give the impression of being barely under control; a pair of spiky post-punk juggernauts with no brakes, careering through rapidly changing territory at a rate of knots. But, and here’s where we’ll return to the original point, you don’t stick with them long enough to see the multi-car pile up at the end – we’re just left with the ride. And what a ride.
While there’s all manner of weird-ass creativity going on, We Are The Octagonists is certainly not an indigestible experience. Behind it all is a sense of fun and a cursory nod towards the mainstream: Paper Tiger, for example, crosses the indie/dancefloor divide in the manner of a Franz Ferdinand – if you had trapped Franz in a dirty bed-sit, forced them to listen to PiL and Q And Not U records for forty-eight hours straight and then told them to record the results immediately after.
So yes, it’s a damn fine album, and that’s about it. Why? Because brevity, my brethren, brevity is key.