In indie circles, 2009 seemed to be the year of the reinvention. On his second album Everything Is New, Jack Pe�ate was transformed from slightly annoying rockabilly singer with a silly dance into a smooth electro-pop songsmith. Even more surprisingly, with their second album Primary Colours, The Horrors suddenly became good.
Their producers played big roles in these reboots. Paul Epworth and Geoff Barrow, respectively, were both lauded for reinventing their charges. In 2009 the plaudits could well be for the DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy, for his work on Archie Bronson Outfit’s third album.
Not that there was much wrong with the London trio or their last two offerings. In fact, Fur and especially Derdang Derdang are perfect examples of spiky, primal garage blues. Yet nothing quite prepares you for Coconut, an intoxicating mix of Hawkwind-era psych rock, delta blues and punk-disco. It’s heady stuff; at times, quite terrifying.
As part of the DFA operation, Goldsworthy has been behind the electro golden touch of Cut Copy, The Rapture and Hercules And Love Affair. He is a man who, in other words, has a reputation for a well-timed cowbell, rather than serrated guitars and almost claustrophobic atmospherics. With the release of Coconut, that looks set to become a dated view of his production skills.
Opening track Magnetic Warrior steams in like a thing possessed, all howling guitars and pounding drums, before Sam Windett’s unmistakable yelping vocals kick in. There’s so much distortion through Windett’s voice that you’d swear he’s singing about a chicken pie, although the song is probably about matters much less mundane, given the amount of angst crammed into the vocal.
Magnetic Warrior builds up a powerful head of steam, and the rest of the album makes good running with it; check out the African guitar rhythms on Chunk, or the deceptively relaxed melody of Hunt You Down. There’s an urgency that courses through the record, a relentless energy that offsets the sometimes gloomy atmosphere.
As with Derdang Derdang, the best moments are mainly in the first half; the frenzied grind of Wild Strawberries, and the brilliant loping groove of the aforementioned Chunk (possibly the track most redolent of Goldsworthy’s DFA pedigree). The latter in particular rivals Dart For My Sweetheart as the best thing they’ve ever done, with more than a nod to Remain In Light-era Talking Heads.
Sometimes it all goes a bit too weird, as on You Have A Right To Mountain Life/One Up On Yourself, which has the requisite frenzied atmosphere but no semblance of a tune, while Harness (Bliss) overstays its welcome by a couple of minutes and sinks into dirge territory. Yet this is balanced by the lighter touch of Hunt You Down and the closing Run Gospel Singer – the closest that Coconut comes to offering a singalong track.
Archie Bronson Outfit have hovered on the fringes of success for some time now, somehow never quite achieving the success that their critical acclaim would suggest they deserve. Coconut may be a bit too obtuse to change that, but it’s a fascinating release; for those willing to explore beneath the seemingly obtuse surface, there’s much to delight. Just make sure it’s played LOUD.