Starting life as art freaks Minty (once featuring porky weirdster and Boy George bezzie mate Leigh Bowery), The Servant initially presented the grubby kind of bedsit sleaze once so fashionable in the late ’90s, where the witless and the elegantly wasted affected shabby, drug-lit, bedsit chic.
Now they return in more acceptable mainstream form from a three year silence since 2000’s Mathematics EP with a strutting, bland, contrived, cocksure nod to a preening period Suede at best, and the “genius” of rock titans Menswear, Sleeper or also rans Subcircus at worst.
This is a band who believe their own PR, but beyond their fetid little crania the world has moved on from finding the tired clichés of misunderstood neurotic pretty boy outsiders even remotely interesting.
There’s a dated predictable feel to these songs, with nothing remotely inspired leaping out from the tired grooves. The closest they get to anything in the direction of memorable is on the single Orchestra, which has a cinematic romanticism in its swoon and swagger, despite lines about being “a samurai in a storm”.
The album straddles styles from jangle-pop (I Can Walk In Your Mind), chamber-pop (Liquefy) and baggy Charlatans groove (Devil), but it’s not a pretty listen. Singer Dan Black whines along like a camp Liam Gallagher, and lopes in a similarly simian way through turgid rhymes of affected anguish in a remarkably unremarkable way, clumsily name-checking buzzwords “serotonin” and “urban slums” in the way Brett Anderson used to. The Servant are a band yearning to be loved but just come across as second place mongrels playing tricks to win our affection.
There should be category for this unique blend of wank and angst (“wangst”?) of hollow dramatics. This is the sound of a band in transition from underground luvvies to mainstream acceptance and floundering. NME charitably called them The Smiths via Prince. They were wrong on both counts. The Servant are Shed Seven meets Gay Dad.