Leeds has always had a vibrant music scene and, in recent years, it’s turned into a hotbed of promising rock groups. Pulled Apart By Horses, Hookworms, Eagulls and more have built their careers by endlessly going on tours and their releases to date have tried, as best as they can, to capture that energy. They’re also bands that clearly have a lot of respect for each other; for all the differences between them, they are united as one.
With that in mind, Menace Beach are a very quintessentially Leeds band. Ryan Needham and Liza Violet are the founding members, but they’ve had plenty of help from friends in what has become a heavily rotated line-up over the past couple of years. Personnel from Pulled Apart By Horses, Sky Larkin and Hookworms have all contributed in some form, whether it be on their Lowtalkin’ EP from last year or on this debut full-length, Ratworld. As an album it is grungey and gnarly, which shouldn’t really come as a massive shock.
What’s surprising though is how varied the material that constitutes Ratworld can be. Fortune Teller is one of a handful of songs that stray away from the straightforward, having more in common with the shoegazy end of the ’90s spectrum. The spiralling organ melody comes as a bolt from the blue yet it’s magnificently enticing. Both that and Drop Outs are delights whilst Blue Eye and Pick Out The Pieces both have great melodies that rise above the layers of guitar feedback; the former in particular contains a quite beautiful vocal performance by Violet.
Part of the reason why these tunes are so stunning is the uncomplicated nature of the rest of the pack. Infinite Donut and Come On Give Up are both unfussy in how they get from A to B, but they do the job perfectly fine, Tastes Like Medicine bounces along nicely and Lowtalkin’ is an electrifying piece of raucous rock.
They have all the ingredients that one would expect as well as a bag of tricks one wouldn’t. So why doesn’t it quite tick all the boxes? It’s hard not to feel that Ratworld is, at times, trying to recreate all the duo’s favourite LPs. From My Bloody Valentine to the Pixies and Pavement, it almost becomes a game of ‘spot the influence’.
However, there is something very likeable about Menace Beach. At times, the music is so rousing and glorious that it’s easy to just not care about the fact that they’re heading down a well-worn path. Needham and Violet have conjured up a heavily melodic album that is as surprisingly well thought out as it is satisfyingly loud. They’re not going to be able to dig up the past forever – at some point they will have to think about how to make a racket that is distinctively their own – but there are a few tunes on this album that are likely to be stuck on repeat for a while.