There are a staggering number of bands out there these days. Many are hoping that they are unique in some way, whilst generally fitting into a bunch of categories and sub-categories, within which individual outfits are often much the same as each other. However there simply isn’t another band quite like Airhammer out there, and ‘out there’ is exactly what they are.
Ben Smith and Aaron Elvis have built a Royal Variety Performance of a record, switching wildly between genres with every song, each one somewhere between the silly and the downright ridiculous. Smith’s vocals have an over-the-top operatic delivery throughout, sounding almost like Freddie Mercury in places, which is especially dominant on My Mother Germany – a slice of Kurt Weill-esque vaudeville that is so absurd you may have to hit rewind just to check you didn’t imagine it.
So what have we got on this record? There’s mid-’80s punk-tinged rock, reminiscent of The Clash and The Cure, with a little New Model Army thrown in. That accounts for Boss Boss, Reality’s Here, Rasputin and single Pissed Off which rips off the riff to Holiday In Cambodia by The Dead Kennedys before launching into a catchy blast of pop-punk. Don’t Play Me For A Fool is a true slice of cheerful guitar pop that would have been straight onto Top Of The Pops 15 years ago, with its backing ooh-oohs.
We’re then into pure Lovecats territory at the start of Funny Thing That/Who Am I Then, only to take an epic journey through the landscape of the Airhammer musical vocabulary that ends up sounding as though it might have been at home on The Doors‘ silliest album, The Soft Parade. In fact, it sounds like a collage of all the bands’ favourite bits from various ’70s classics, and as such is a microcosm of the album as a whole.
Moving into the other stuff, there’s the hilarious country swagger of On My Farm and the untitled bonus track, both of which sound genuinely like they are being played by a bunch of hillbillies in the middle of a farmyard. My Sweetheart even drifts into Carpenters style muzak, and may be a sign of what the Tindersticks might have done if they’d cheered up a bit.
In direct contrast to the overblown nature of the rest of the album there’s also a couple of little acoustic ditties – these fall a little flat, since giving the lyrics prominence means that they have to show more substance than they do here. Then there’s the title track, featuring psychedelic legend Arthur Brown; apparently their homage to 70’s prog rock, it’s actually more of a slightly sloppy Iron Maiden clone that suffers for not having Maiden performing it.
Taken as a whole then, this album is so disparate it doesn’t really hold together. That said, it’s a lot of fun, as long as it’s not taken seriously. Airhammer are apparently a great band to catch live, and I’m watching out for some local dates so I can get the chance. If anything, I’m not sure this album will ever make sense before I’ve seen the band on stage. As for recommending the album itself, if you’re after something different and genuinely esoteric then Airhammer may well be just for you – but don’t say I didn’t warn you.