Yet another album released by a band I know personally through living in the same city… it’s always a proud moment to see musicians you know and support getting their stuff out there to the world at large, and a proper release from You’re Smiling Now But We’ll All Turn Into Demons is long overdue, if you ask me. Contact High contains nine tunes, many of which have been released in less-finished forms on hard-to-find hand-made CDs over the last few years, and acts as a great introduction to the … Demons aesthetic.
That aesthetic, in a nutshell, is loud’n'fuzzy garage psyche-rock. Closely aligned with the UK noise-rock circuit (through relentless touring and gig-swapping with outfits like Lovvers, Sad Shields and more), … Demons live shows raise volume and immersion to the state of ritual – when you see some of the tiny venues they play around here, you wonder how the places have managed to keep their performance licenses. It’s quite plausible that the staff and local residents have simply been permanently deafened by the sound of weird old stomp-boxes and valve amps. As a result, Contact High is a rather curious experience for anyone who’s seen them play live a lot; while it’s loud and fuzzy, it has a warm clarity that is almost impossible to achieve by cramming four musicians into the back-room of a small pub and feeding the vocals through a PA that would struggle to cut over the chatter at a bingo hall on a sunny Wednesday lunchtime.
In other words, you can hear that … Demons can actually play their instruments rather well. Oh, sure, they’re no virtuoso Grade 8 theorists, but they know their chosen style inside out – twin guitars belt out skuzzy wah-wah riffs and echo-soaked solo meanderings, the bass rumbles along like a stolen fire engine, and the drums are played fast and hard with an emphasis on furious snare-roll embellishment, perpetually sounding like they’re about to collapse into a clatter of too-early beats but never quite managing to do so. Contact High is an apt name; if you’re at all attached to the stoner/psychedelic culture that informs their work (be it through an affinity for certain controlled substances, a shared musical heritage, or both) you’ll find it hard not to be swept up into their noisy maelstrom of riffs and drones.
And … Demons have an ear for the simple but infectious hook; think of early Mudhoney and Monster Magnet, the more whacked-out tracks from Eddie Glass’s Nebula and the less obtuse works of Sonic Youth, and you’re in the right department. Repetition is hypnosis when it’s done right, and I will personally arm-wrestle anyone who doesn’t concede that the main riff to “Jammin’ on the 13th Floor” isn’t one of the most awesome collections of notes ever assembled into bars by anyone, anywhere, ever. “But you’re biased, you know these guys,” I hear you say. Well, maybe so… but I only know them because I started going to every show of theirs I could get to, and drunkenly waffling at them about effects pedals after they’d finished playing. It’s a bias based on musical passion first and foremost, in other words, and if that doesn’t make this review legitimate… well, you’ll just have to buy a copy of Contact High for yourself, listen to it, and come up with some decent reasons as to why I’m wrong.
But I’m not. So there.