Monkeys eh? When they’re not forming packs and tearing the limbs off of other monkeys, they’re sitting around throwing their faeces at zoo visitors. Not marmosets, though; they’re only tiny and kind of cute looking. No shit throwing from a marmoset – they’re far too tiny and polite for that kind of carry on.
Marmozets, regardless of their crazy spelling, have a lot in common with their tiny, hairy monkey cousins. They’re pretty cute, unthreatening and hardly as red in tooth and claw as might be hoped for. They’re not as weird and wonderful as the title of their new album suggests, nor as heavy as one might expect from a band signed to Roadrunner (the label that was once home to the likes of Obituary and Deicide).
The truth is, they’re actually quite mainstream despite the judicious application of distortion and an occasional screamed vocal line. They’ve been described as math rock in the past, which, whilst may have been true of their earlier EPs, is not the case on their debut album. They do however like to throw quite a lot of shit around during the course of a song and see what sticks. When they hit their targets Marmozets are undoubtedly a pretty exiting and entertaining band. When they fall short, they’re just left with some pretty stinky fingers.
If anything, The Weird And Wonderful… feels a little like a compromise. Long term fans of the band will find that Marmozets have softened in their approach and moved away from their off-kilter, almost jazz-styled beginnings. There is still evidence of their past scattered around though, and unsurprisingly it is these moments that find the band at their most exciting. Vibratech for example kicks off with a mass of jarring and frantic riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on a The Dillinger Escape Plan album. Discordant guitars skitter and stab, settle into a cavernous groove and then whirl off once again, savage and untamed. Vocalist Becca Macintyre is at her most feral here, and showcases her ability to strip paint with her raw and vicious delivery. The bombastic opening track Born Young And Free also hints briefly at what might be termed as their weirder side but quickly defers to earworm choruses and pop-sheen. None the less Macintyre stamps her authority over everything the band throws at her, soaring elegantly when required and roaring like a wounded animal when they go for the jugular. Particle follows a similar path, it’s crammed with inventive riffing and yet another fine vocal performance that swings wildly between pop and demented.
Elsewhere things are not quite as inventive or interesting. Why Do You Hate Me? finds a bizarre middleground between Avril Lavigne (Complicated era) and Arctic Monkeys. It’s the sound of bedrooms being painted black and angsty diaries being scrawled in spiderhand. Is It Horrible? meanwhile borrows from Blur‘s Song 2 and Queens Of The Stone Age and somehow results in a fairly middle of the road affair. “Is it bearable?” asks Macintyre. It is, but bearable is not something a band that clearly possesses youthful vim and vigour should aim for. Is It Horrible? Sadly not.
Even worse is obligatory ballad Cry. It’s a limp affair, apparently written by careful adherence to the rock ballad template and it’s quite appalling. Marmozets might have been born young and free, but this particular song should have been butchered at birth. Hit The Wave meanwhile is big shiny power pop that sounds like it’s been written with one eye on radio play rather than allowing the band’s creativity to really flow.
Fortunately the likes of Move Shake And Hide and the sprawling hooks of Love You Good go some way to adding a bit of bite to the album and show the band truly off the reins. Love You Good in particular possesses an escalating sense of lunacy that the rest of the album would really benefit from. There’s just not enough of that unhinged brilliance across the board unfortunately; a little more weirdness might have led to something wonderful. As it is, this is a assured debut, but lacking any real surprises.