TV Face: Tide of Men
LP | CD | DL
Out 22nd September 2023
Musically familiar yet setting new records, conceptually advanced but accessible within a pop context, the new album from TV Face and their debut LP on Crackedankles; Tide of Men sees the band hitting new artistic peaks.
Lancaster’s TV Face are a band that ticks all the right boxes regarding what being ‘independent’ means. At least in musical terminologies. They include the following –
- They’re independent by having big statements wrapped up in short blasts of corrugated noise.
2. They’re independent because they’ve released the album on Crackedankles, an independent label.
3. They’re independent because they have a distinct, aesthetic coherency that enables people to recognise the band from afar.
On the first point…
So much to say in so little time as though the more the walls shrink, the louder the band becomes. It’s the mark of masters at work when socio-political statements that can often; when entire chapters are dedicated to the point at hand, devour whole hours but the impetus of the point ended up lost long ago.
Yet here, in the case of the disgruntled, post-punk eruptions that TV Face manages to manifest, the message is never muddied, muddled, or murdered by taking an entire aeon to achieve some kind of cognitive understanding. It gets to the point in a few minutes or less. Packing as much unabashed wallop as sonically, and lyrically possible into the tune, tightly wound but tumbling down and out, from and through something mad, dextrously harnessing the mess unleashed within its slick, temporal boundaries.
In this case, the experiences of Steve McWade, the group’s singer and guitarist, pinned himself to the microscope slide due to catching a parasitic infection whilst delivering audio workshops to young people in Georgia and suffering the auto-immune conditions that followed.
It must be said this is strictly an independent idea. Any other added limb that grows from the monstrous, musical oil rig has virtually all the resources in the world beneath its feet to greedily suck dry all it stabs into. There’s no innocence in pop music if that pop music wants to terraform the entire universe into its personal playground with the grotesque appendages suction-cupped onto the surface of garage group bandits or post-punk hellraisers educated on a diet of cheap amphetamine, the Au Pairs and Achtung Baby.
What better way to negate the notion ushered into public opinion thanks to the pandemic and the political spectacle that spread around it that ‘they were going to die anyway’ than the unabating spree of skewed, bullet-spitting songs that thrillingly fills the album, an album with plenty of ‘fuck yous’ in plenty of three-minute-or-less (ish) pop gut-punches. There is no better way, friends. This is it. The fast light and zero fat. The revving chainsaw chewing through the waistline of a freefalling windmill. A rocket launch through the inner ear.
Stuck starts then never stops as though coming up for air even once would compromise the hit of brilliant power radiating from its jaws. Angry at everything and everyone, it’s a bustling feast of buzzsaw guitars, blizzards of billowing, electric lashes that attach themselves to the back then remove a layer once it’s pulled back, vocals are distorted and contorted, gymnasts of manic bass dance to avoid, or possibly confront, the whirlpool of thrashing drums.
Black Bag is a loud-quiet spell of brooding guitar undercurrents and cracked static noise adding to the disquieting ambiance that scatters throughout the songs. Infectious melodies insert themselves into the mind, monolithic rock riffage, rollicking rhythmic swirls and barking-mad vocals intensifying it’s the song’s magnetic swagger like the sonic equivalent to ECT, pressed to vinyl and released on SST.
A wonderful trident of piercing guitar, bass and drums, unified by vocals through the torrent of hot noise, thunderous rumble and acid-scuzz, Tin Pot Nation’s reverberated thorn-fingered guitars where the plectrum is replaced by shark teeth or small sheets of shrapnel removed from a metal body freshly pulled from the melting wreckage is an endless dip into both dream and nightmare with the conservative, neoliberal ‘death-cult (what a title that would be, right?) featured firmly in mind as it engulfs everything around it like mustard gas takes to a gang of anarchists. White-hot squawks and barbed-wire bass lines pacing up and down the room, a psychotic waltz both blissful and beastly in equal parts, roaming and rummaging around for something they are forever trying to find, is finally found the more Neil Parker’s drums dig into the floor below.
Life imitates art but now art imitates life. So who decides who lives and who dies? The copy of the copy of the copy is an object long since abandoned. Originality and the search for truth dejected to the wastebins and scrapyards of memory. The idea of identity and the relentless desire to appear as sane as one can pass and present oneself as (according to what the apps allow and the unofficial, elected pundit party perfectly kept like a smile in a jar of lemon preserve demands) is an idea to put the test here, the very idea of normality, of adhering to a particular order, the banal and benign everyday rule underpinning what is common and orthodox, called into question, put on trials and finally sentenced in a spit of intense, three-minute pop tunes.
Tunes such as Mannequin destroy this supposed-to-be dogma. A dirty bass opener gorges the matador through the belly and maims him into a wall. No more than a piece of meat, a lump of flesh, finessed out of existence. It charges forward unconcerned for the obstacles before its decided path with the scent of blood and electricity penetrating the air. Guitars simultaneously sing and screech. A manic twang that could tear down whole Corinthian columns as though they had the consistency of cushions on a tattered, chaise longue. Serrated, sci-fi atmospherics, disorienting and dribbling onto the surfaces as hydrofluoric acid would dissolve the solder on the circuit board. The more these guitars provide dishcloth to clean the glass, the more the bass spits in it with all matter of inhuman, and ungodly chemicals creating, along with the humungous singalong (surely the very word mannequin was coined for the purposes of being put into THIS song) a remarkable, post-hardcore art-punk anthem.
Each song stands as a rebellious, hell-raising rallying cry shared between a pubescent Bis with the whole world settling itself on their shoulders and Brainiac fresh out of Xanax. All delicious bubblegum discordance and a distinct sting of blood in the mixture strangely sweetening its flavour like clasping your teeth around a bar of chrome. ‘Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na’ (there may well be more ‘na-na-nas’ to keep Batman busy for a few hours), goes the chorus of Working in the Institution, before smashing us with ‘forget yourself’. As though the notions of the gradual erasure of the self, the erosion of the human soul at the expense of how other people’s opinions and expectations of you are perceived in all their filtered, digestible prejudices is something so commonplace right now in the prime time for technological advancement, ever–rampant upon each passing hour, yet the genuine human spirit in all its sensitivities regresses into pre-historic redundancy.
Tackling the theme of conspicuous consumption and the psycho-intravenous thrill that comes with being a consumer, an online streetworker in the pursuit of pleasure, passively plastering their brains with another item added to the basket, basking in the mindless bliss they have just so accomplished in purchasing, Tide of Men races through and washes over us with its tremendous six-string tremors. It’s an unstoppable avalanche of turgid noise punctuated by the turbulent pounce of descending bass scales, all woozy and gooey and capable of disabling the modern palaces we call multi-storey car parks that turn cul-de-sacs into Britain’s overflowing ashtrays. Barbarism begins where?
Interestingly, as the band naturally always are in, there is still that classic girl-boy dynamics Steve and Bridgit (also McWade) execute so well flying throughout each song. That Mexican standoff in a saloon where Frank Black and Kim Gordon bark at each other, one trying to bite the neck of the other and enjoying the prospect of ripping a whole chunk of the common carotid artery away and enjoying how it tastes. Tunefully overlapping and interlinked throughout the boisterous chorus to really amplify the aggression, but also works to make it glisten and shine with a greater sense of melody on the pop platforms, a moment of richness than some humdrum, primordial form of macho punk rock would otherwise ever be capable of.
Ever the clever noiseniks but general fans of pop music with a purpose, a point in the palms of the hands, Automatic too makes use of this TV Face trick. It explodes a dynamite combo of skull-shattering rock melodicism with the carnivorous garage drama digging right up against it, pitching the scream to the right range so its colours in the surrounding chaos, some extra vocal warmth augmenting the maximum momentum, decisiveness and rage to match the band have clearly thought through. It’s a punk-disco punches a hole into the throat with its chopping-block chords, precise glides and swoops of bass pins that prick the surface and cavernous drums shot from the catalogue of either Hella or Shellac in their unhinged, elephantine stamina. The soundtrack to something ominous overtaking the horizon behind you, the windshield blocked by a cloud of black like the sky has been smeared in a thousand years of shit.
Let’s tackle point two of why TV Face are the epitome of all things independent.
Preston’s Crackedankles is mainly the house within which Evil Blizzard live, initially set up as an outlet for their music. Since then, it’s branched out and broadened the scope of what it likes to shove down the lockjawed mouth of the modern, music-consuming public. More than just a logo slapped onto the arse of a release (a trap most labels come ready to snap around the balls of most bright, young, indie things) but a label indeed – operating out of basements, to make the eventual journey to the heart, worth every irritating blister, bead of sweat and stinking penny.
HotWax and Hauspoints, Fighting and Chum are now part of the Crackedankles roster. A power station operating in Lancashire’s Ribble Delta. How mysterious and pastoral! How fantastical it’s almost fictitious in how nowhere it appears. Far from made up though, the label is humble and heartful enough to say, with a smile on their face as though the whole traditional industry is screaming in hell below their feet at the gall of what Crackedankles believe to be their general manifesto – ‘fuck the deal’ – who needs a deal?
Instead, the label, and this is probably why the groups ‘signed’ (sign what? your life away? nobody gets ‘signed’ anymore, you get swindled of your creative control and then sidelined for eternity when the hit machine runs out of oil) love to work with them. The groups lend their music, the label borrows, everyone’s happy, and nobody’s head gets fed into the blender.
TV Face released a double A-side on the label last month featuring Working in the Institution and I Knew A Girl I Didn’t Know. The label also digitally released a previous single from the group called New Anatomies a bit back.
Taken from the forthcoming album Tide of Men, Working/I Knew was pressed on a very limited edition lathe cut double A-side 7″ single last month. The former is a delicious battle between Breeders and Brat Mobile, pop-snarl. The latter is a wrestling match between lively armadas of hard-hitting drums, dark disco bass dance moves and guitars spraying sparks from their serrated jaws. ‘When your past is wearing thin, wish she could just begin again’ it howls, breaking a piece of skin and slitting at the seams until the skeleton is reduced to millions of glass marbles on the floor. It fizzles into a weird, wasteland ambience like the left ear has been sliced off as the whole sonic assault reloads the weapon by shoving a magazine up its arse but keeps the atmosphere tingling with rhythmic adrenalin, eventually crashing back in with its sharp, harmonic waves and mangled-carrion riffage.
It’s nice to acknowledge the sanctity of certain objects due to how limited they are within a certain, interested circle, online and in-person. It adheres to that old-school idea of creating your own art but establishing it as being exchanged in a cottage-industry fashion that keeps the creativity within your control but the ambitions firmly ablaze. ‘Amateurish’ hardly, tastemakers not so much, buy the Lancashire label clearly has a lot of wonderful things within our ravenous, multimedium-consuming radius judging from their previous releases which include Leeds’ Thank, Swedens’ KROM and the aforementioned Evil Blizzard.
The label clearly has their ear pressed against the palatable, sonic forces and vibrating kinetic kicks of the underground that you can trace them back to the tip of the root even if the bands they put out should suddenly drop off and do new things as independent bands are allowed to do – fussy artistic buggers that a lot of them are, loyal to the labour of love.
Not that supports with Warmduscher and Brix Smith have necessarily impacted upon the molecular structure of the group, they are after all, committed to corrupting the purity of TV Face in their own way, restless, avaricious absorbents of music old and new but retain that sense of stalwart seclusion that keeps their identity as a band making a big splash in soon-to-be-bigger ponds intact and real. But there is that caustic catchiness that links those groups together. Those influential purveyors of exotic alt noise, botched surgery scales that crush stone into sugar, futurist-abattoir atmospherics and blistering rhythms that send the dashboard dials wild.
Cold Killers possesses enough strut to rip up the tarmac on your average street with the ease of a fabric plaster ripped from the knee of an annoying child before the scar has fully healed. Just when you think it couldn’t get any leaner and meaner, faster yet somehow dragged through something slimy, a whole supernova of slow-moving chords crash into frenzied, animalistic action as the second minute tumbles into the third. Chugging and choking but taking control of the entire situation despite the liquified brain oozing out of the nostrils quicker and thicker than loose noodles spill into a ceramic bowl the more one bangs their head in defiance of gravity.
Wind Your Neck In wreaks havoc on the senses with its stampede of steamrollers and bulldozers once the size and shape of musical instruments. Post-punk slices of manic light blast back and forth below the burning verses, electrifying and empowered throughout the ensuing chorus. A beautifully melancholic breakdown stimulated by fuzzy-flowered bass chords only intensifies the impact that follows in its footsteps of utmost pop art riot and deformed, atonal oddness.
The album’s artwork was designed by Steve. Their artwork is always designed by Steve which is why you should buy it. The third and final reason why they are so downright independent it fucking hurts. There has always been that idiosyncratic iconography that fronts TV Face’s releases, collectable like the best records often are in how concise they chronologically slot alongside each other.
In this case, a pig, once a person, stares at itself, vacant yet tingling with the vain, virtuous, mnemonic residue still lingering in its system that the mirror can often assist in distributing throughout the body. The pig questions its purpose here, its whereabouts, its nature. The mirror is as utterly useless and utterly revolutionary as the computer or the monolith in 2001, the birth and death of civilisation starts with a reflection. Or are two pigs confronting each other? Forced to face one another as time and space see to their instant demise as modern warriors of nothing, heretical apostles armed with their ambitions and knowledge of what comes next.
In another narrative, the pig is about to transform into a person; Steve to be precise, after millennia trapped in a state of everlasting purgatory, pushing against the spokes of a wheel belowground, feeding more souls into the sausage machine encased in a form of spiritual sub mucosa, finally able to purge itself, himself free of its incessant, regressive, depressive social ailments, liberated from Dante’s downloadable Inferno and move on to pastures new. He is a symbol for everyone else. Caught between the bars of a panoptic pentagram overlooking everything, installing illusions that crawl under it all. A leper betrayed by the ones that liked to think they loved him – but to only think such a thing is the work of idiots who have let their imaginations run wild and will believe anything they are instructed to swallow or face a trip to their the gallows pole, holographically erected at the foot of their great, capitalistic plaza.
In another narrative, a person adorns the pig mask, Steve is forced into adapting to the mechanics of the times, forced into adopting a costume as a means of making sure our identity is worth nothing more than an accessory in comparison to the Big Picture, the Grand Plan. The line drawn between the mask and the marks of a real man, between latex and flesh below is hard to distinguish. A lot like the resounding tannoy of the zeitgeist billowing throughout every online avenue and physical terrain in our ever-connected stage set of social spheres, echoing the prescient words of Franz Kafka: ”I was ashamed of myself when I realised life was a costume party and I attended with my real face”.
I suppose there’s no better band right now than TV Face to reveal to us the frustrating inability to deduce what is real and what is otherwise right now, but see now issue in presenting us with the result of that inability with ferocious accuracy, the moment of enlightening metamorphosis despite how nightmarish the endurance of it actually is: as rotten as it is honest, as abject as it is artistic. Copy, paste, erase, etc.
Photos by Darren Green ©
All words by Ryan Walker.
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