Torpedoes: Black Museum – Album Review
Torpedoes: Black Museum (Detour Records)
CD/DL/ Double Vinyl
Seventeen songs, a double album from probably the Last Great Gothic Rock band, although pigeonholing them does them a disservice as there are a lot of influences and a great deal of passion in these dark grooves, says Ged Babey pondering the Gothic view of Brexit…
I can see black skies, white lies, rewinding history…
I haven’t heard an album like this for years. it’s not the kind of stuff I actively seek out to be honest.
Big, bombastic, dark anthems. soaring choruses. Serious intent wrapped in the purple prose poetics and cliche but beautifully constructed rock classicism. Guitars that shimmer and stun, basslines as deep as ravines, obligatory glacial keyboards and portentous drums. And a singer like a Sinatra from Hades … in shades.
Torpedoes play post-punk-flavoured rock’n’roll that adheres to the rules of verse, chorus, bridge, solo for the most part. Like the Manics at their most commercial or the Cult when they broke through into the jukebox metal mainstream… Yet merged into the sound are shades of ‘shoegaze’/dreampop introspection wrapped around lyrics about European politics and life & death.
Basically this is Epic Pop music. Made by the last great Gothic Rock band… a look and subculture which hides from the daylight… but this band need to be seen and heard.
I was a Goth before you was a Goth… (aah! the smell of hot crimpers on freshly dyed black hair…)
Joy Division, the Banshees, Bauhaus, Wasted Youth, UK Decay, Playdead … and the Sisters of Mercy…. who were definitive and majestic. When they played the Royal Albert Hall it was the End as far as I was concerned. The Mission signalled the death knell for what was a beautiful cult.. I just never ‘got’ the Nephilim. I moved away from the darkness into the light… (I write the Cure out of my personal history of Goth – they just became money-chasers from ‘Lets Go To Bed’ onwards… Nuff about me, but it means I know where Torpedoes are ‘coming from’ and they fascinate me, because THEY never lost ‘faith’ it seems…
I know next to nothing about them: From Portsmouth. Been around for sixteen years. Not spring chickens. The singer is scarily called ‘Razor’. the bassist Wolfie, the drummer Elvis, and the guitarist Benny. Wearers of sunglasses after dark, this is their third album. The Portsmouth sense of humour means a rival musician saying to me ” I’d never be in a band whose name ends in ‘paedos’…” makes me smile every time I think of it, and I pray that Razor doesn’t live up to his name.
Torpedoes are a band out of time, out of place, out of synch… so therefore a bit special, as this aint a commercial enterprise, this must be for-love. Yet they have a sound which could fill stadiums. They have absorbed a lot of influences over the decades: OK, the main two are the Manics and Muse, but this alone shows the scale of there ambition and potential. This is widescreen, panoramic, passionate, intelligent, articulate Rock. (Which explains the fact they don’t seem to constantly play the same old smaller venues in a slogging yerself to death on the local gig circuit treadmill.)
…the fact that this has been released on Mod/Scooterist label Detour Records is a turn-up for the books, and testament to the persuasive powers of Tony Rollinson (the bands manager).
The Press release tells us:
As with the Damned’s Black Album the first three sides are the core ‘concept’ while on side four we bring you the band’s previous double A-side singles.
The songs on Black Museum cover themes about Europe (it’s people, its conflicts), Brexit and tellingly personal loss. Song For Europe is an exploration of Europe’s recent history… then there is the gripping World War II monster of a song Gas Chamber, then back further to World War I with the standout White Feather and side one closes with In The Sky (singer)Razor’s remembrance of close friends and the fallen…. Land Of The Summer explores the darkness at the heart of Europe; “God don’t want you for a martyr” is a classic modern observation…
The album opens with arguably the best track, Song For Europe – a soaring, grandiose number with keyboards which sound like a string section. Manics with a bit of Bunnymen. The Mission spring to mind too because of the Wastelands section of lyric. Stalin, Khrushchev and Kennedy crop up in the words too – this is probably the song which defines Torpedoes as dealing with history, politics, current affairs and streamlining the darkness of their music into a gleaming anthems which actually sound positive rather than doom-laden.
Gas Chamber features some great guitar (as does the whole album) sounding a bit like great lost Goth band Playdead . Having song titles like Gas Chamber and Master Race are maybe leaving themselves open to misinterpretation though.
Professional Victim is a storming track, although pretty much a wholesale Killing Joke steal, it’s the familiarity of Torpedoes which makes them immediately likeable. There are riffs and ideas adapted from Nirvana, Muse, Guns N’Roses which you can tick off on first listen, but on repeated plays it’s just the epic, windswept drama of Torpedoes dark oeuvre which impresses.
In The Sky and Halleluiah! are highpoints with beautiful flanged and phased guitar and the latter seemingly using Save A Prayer keyboards and How Soon Is Now? guitar, whilst the epic memorial to people who have passed on has a definite Sleep No More influence to the drum pattern and streams of liquid guitar.
Land Of The Summer is epic scale stadium goth – as are This is the End and the Plague – but as I said -it’s not as grim as you might think from the titles.
The ‘concept’ sides. 1, 2 & 3 are magnificent stuff, which if they had appeared back in the 80’s would’ve blown Rose of Avalanche and the second generation Goth bands out of the water.
The Forth side – a round up of earlier singles is more patchy.
Delirious is a sublime piece of crimped and black-clad pop – a bit like the Bolshoi -if you remember them. Twisted Love Song will probably go down well with Damned fans.
Thank You – is decidedly out of character – a Lennon/Oasis type ‘thank you’ to a partner for being ‘so wonderful’. Milkmen could whistle it and yer nan would singalong it’s that catchy. I fuckin’ hate it to be honest, it’s so soppy it makes me wanna puke – but it’s the only low point on an otherwise flawless album.
I can see the tunnel at the end of the light .. is my favourite snippet of lyric as it captures the Gothic sense of cynicism with a simple bit of wordplay.
Torpedoes probably don’t even think of themselves as a Goth band, because they are so much more – but that is where their audience lie, and this is a very special album indeed which they should take to their dark hearts.
Buy the album direct from Detour
The album launch is Friday 20th July 2018 at the Wedgewood Rooms Tickets £6 – Supports are Fake Empire and Positrons. Possibly a very special guest…
All words by Ged Babey