Trash Kit are the kind of band that it is almost preferable not to know too much about beforehand. Coming to them fresh and uninformed, much fun can be had building up a mental picture and band biog simply based on the wild, weird and occasionally wonderful sounds that emanate from their self-titled album.
They sound like a band lifted, intact, from the pages of Simon Reynolds‘ post-punk primer Rip It Up And Start Again. This is apparent not simply in the prevalence of ‘off the shelf’ stylistic tics like the punk/funk rhythm found in the basslines of Knock Yr Socks Off! and Gorey; or the resolutely lo-fi sound of tracks like 50 Women. These tropes have been perhaps overused in recent years by numerous bands seeking some kind of credibility or authenticity in echoing an earlier sound.
Here, by contrast, is a genuine and refreshing sense of unpredictability, of flying by the seat of their pants, of sheer noisy anarchic exuberance that they bring to their music-making, as found in the genuine post-punk innovators from the late 1970s. Many of the 17 tracks on the album are extremely short, yet still manage to cram in a crazy mishmash of noise and ideas. Cadets, for example, is bass-heavy, chaotic and shouty, with a vocal that sounds off-the-cuff. 50 Women speeds up, slows down, speeds up again in a clatter of guitars and a ska backbeat. Tattoo, meanwhile, features some actual melodic singing and a spot of music-lesson violin.
The impression is very much of the band as a Girl Gang. Most vocals are shared and chanted, grunted (many “oh-ah”s and “oh-oh-oh”s are to be heard), shouted, and even dramatically shrieked on the likes of Cadets, and the frenetic album closer Wolfman. Often sounding like a 21st century take on The Slits, the lyrics too, particularly in the magnificent Natascha, are woman-centric in the best strong, assertive tradition: “Sex appeal / Doing as I feel”… “I’m much too old / To be doing as I’m told” for example. Tracks often arrive, go a little bonkers, then leave without having actually developed into anything much – Pig Cat, Bugsy and Gorey in particular – but somehow they pull it off in such an engaging manner that this doesn’t seem to matter. It also helps, of course, that the tracks are so brief, so the sense of self-indulgence never has the time to grate before the befuddled listener is hustled on to the next small piece of lunacy.
The tracks that best typify the band include Cadets, Gorey, Trash Kit (the song) and Wolfman: all hectic, varied, lively yet never so abstruse or difficult as to alienate. The best tracks however are Tattoo, Filipino Song – from slow to frenetic with its own urgent rhythm, Bad Books – like a missing Pigbag track, but with library-themed sloganeering, the abovementioned Natascha, and Fame. The latter is one of the most song-like tracks, combining thoughts on the ubiquity of modern celebrity (“We ride the Megabus / We’re all famous now”) with a hummable tune and handclaps.
Ultimately one of the most satisfying things when you finally do cave in and glance at the band’s publicity materials is that the photos of the three warpaint-smeared women with which you are met are somehow perfect. Looking every bit as confrontational, borderline-unhinged yet out-and-out fun as the music that they make, this is probably even better than any fictional biography that this energising, astringent, ludicrous joy of an album might inspire you to dream up.