October 1997 – EP reviews – Amberman’s ‘The Smells Farmers Make’ (“three collar-grabbingly urgent spurts of song”)

25 Oct

Amberman are wrigglers, twitchers. The youngest beasts from the Earzone management stables (who’ve also brought us The Monsoon Bassoon and Magnilda) are also by far the most commercial, crashing pop hooks into each other like a batch of kids running riot with the paddle-boats on a park lake. Spicing up the indie/power-pop noise with swerving pronky gearshifts, Amberman could pass for a teenaged, rather more skeletal Super Furry Animals, with the same echoes of Love’s intense, brittle, psychedelic urgency and with the shortage of SFA-style textural playfulness covered up by the slap and bang of Martin Young’s guitar.

And like Super Furry Animals, Amberman’s singer Richard Harris (a man bawled hoarse) has more on his agenda than simply kicking up dust and sparks. Granted, Pop-Pop is a burst of spiky rebellion that shouts “Stop what you’re doing, and close the schools.” But what’s it really raging against? “You give me nothing, I’ll give you nothing” is either a brush-off, or it’s an accusation. Sold out, and down in the dust of the social experiments, Harris’ fist-shaking seems to come from genuine, outraged betrayal. And Pop-Pop contains enough just enough faith for a dignified, generous bargain (“You give me something, anything… give you everything”) and ends on a promise – “You give me anything, anything to care about – I’ll give you the same.”

This – plus something in Harris’ raucous nasal buzz of a voice – reminds me of the John Lennon that hasn’t been hijacked by the Britpop posers: the man who (whatever his failings) ultimately cared more about life than showing off, and showed that best when he opened up his throat. Waiting in the Rain grabs more of that memory even as – ironically – it also grabs at the muscular musical scramble of Faith No More, that most brilliantly cynical of bands. Like Lennon, Harris may flash-flood into rage, but like Lennon he’ll question himself over it: “I write these words, sick of the profanity; / scream burning rage, unleashing my insanity, / as the storm bursts… / as the clock chimes, I’m waiting in the rain.” And his conclusions are mature ones – “I know myself a little deeper, my climb a little steeper.”

Co-Operate also explores the struggles of life, but on a more microscopic or physical level rather than a metaphysical one, stripping the layers of sophistication from the city to reveal the vulnerabilities and dependencies of a rumbling, chaotic herd of animals. “Things catch the sun, / things drink rain, / some things run, / some fall on their hands and knees… / Feeding on the air, / faces everywhere…” A mad desperate scramble, ending in a weird proggy breakdown.

Going by these three collar-grabbingly urgent spurts of song, Amberman are bubbling with promise… and just waiting for that green light.

Amberman: ‘The Smells Farmers Make’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Cassette-only EP
October 1997
Amberman online:
(no online presence)
Additional notes: (2004 update) Amberman split up before releasing anything else – I have no more news on them.

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