Relaxed Muscle are Darren Spooner and Wayne Marsden, forefront proponents of the new “young sound of Doncaster”. The South Yorkshire duo formed when they met on a Government Restart scheme planting flowers. They specialise in a heavy electronic sound, and this is their debut album.
Well, that isn’t strictly true. This is actually the new guise of Sheffield’s finest songsmiths, Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley, and The All Seeing I‘s Jason Buckle. If you’re expecting Pulp‘s finely crafted pop vignettes, you’ll be disappointed. Relaxed Muscle is odd. Very odd indeed.
Ironic rock music is a tricky one to pull off. While nobody seems exactly sure whether The Darkness “mean it” or not, there’s no doubt here that Jarvis’ tongue is firmly embedded in his cheek. If in doubt, listen to Rod Of Iron where Cocker hilariously claims to “rule his woman with a rod of iron”.
The music here is, as the album title would suggest, heavy. Grimy keyboard and guitar riffs feature strongly, with Cocker’s unmistakeable voice slightly distorted, presumably to distinguish him from his Pulp days. The first few tracks work perfectly, especially the excellent electro-dance single Billy Jack.
It does all become a bit jarring though as the album progresses. Sexualized, despite featuring the fantastic line, “It’s keeping me up all day and all night / I ain’t got no more time for a wazz,” becomes boring and Previous is a bit of a dirge. Only the glam rock stomp of Muscle Music is really successful. By the time the closing Mary has come round, the joke’s worn a bit thin.
Having said all that, there’s the definite impression that all this is not meant to be taken too seriously. It’s the sound of two mates having a laugh and cutting loose in the studio, and on that level it works absolutely fine. Just don’t expect to come back to it in a year’s time like you would with A Different Class.