April 2001 – EP reviews – The Scaramanga Six’s ‘Are You One of the Family?’ (“shrouded in threatening, paranoid twilight or caught in the jaws of mean streets”)

27 Apr

The Scaramanga Six: 'Are You One of the Family?'

The Scaramanga Six: ‘Are You One of the Family?’

Sidle into the world of The Scaramanga Six carefully. When it’s not simmering in darkness or in the threat of chucking-out time aggro, it’s shrouded in threatening, paranoid twilight or caught in the jaws of mean streets. There’s a jagged, brutally slashing organ; guitars that bludgeon and swipe; heavy beat-downs of choruses; and voices that crack and fray nastily with the surge of the music. This is hard-centred pop music, made by five tough-looking guys in suit-and-ties and a woman who looks like the gang boss’ daughter, taking her own team out to batter the husbands of her schoolday rivals.

Or maybe it’s in the mind. Though the Scaramangas seem steeped in a very English, Godfathers-style violence of petty brawls, drink-fuelled action (“give me some courage, and make it Dutch”) and frustration penned-up in hometown limits, they aren’t numbed by it. Instead, they use it as the spur for a fierce, dramatic rock with the fierce intensity of Pixies, Cardiacs or – most precisely – Six By Seven. There’s an explosive force to Paul and Steve Morricone’s band that equals that of Nottingham’s hard poets of anti-glamour. And if they’re not as sophisticated as Pulp (another ready comparison) they’ve got bigger claws.


 
The jerking brutality of Are You One of the Family, in which Paul’s grim vocal balances on shards of gasping organ, sets up this EP’s general atmosphere of dirty surrealism. It’s a nightmare of social claustrophobia in which “everything is family – / the cars that pass, the crazy gas that’s surrounding me” and where “everything you see and do / comes back to someone who you are related to.” A place in which there’s no escape from surveillance: “a man will stop and ask my name / I needn’t answer – our names are the same. / I have cousins in the trees; / and, in the bushes, uncles watching over me.”


 
Ladies and Gentlemen is also family business – ostensibly, it’s a sentimental song, but Paul sings it with a battleship-grey clang which suggests that someone at the party will be going home in a box. “We are gathered here today, in a room sitting comfortably. / Let me shake your hands. / You want to be entertained, you want to be out for fun / and there is someone amongst us here / who I can never forget.” Beyond the funereal organ and the leaden-weight crash of guitars, nothing actually happens… but the Yorkshire Mafiosi atmosphere soaks the air.

Relief from this tension is briefly found in the pop-eyed psychobilly of Grasp the Candle, in which Steve Morricone is let off the leash to trade screams with guitarist Julia Arnez, going for the debaser vote in a shambles of scuzzy drums, Birthday Party crashes and throbbing veins. “I’ve been sharing my bed with the drones from the hive, / I think I’d rather be buried alive… I hear you moaning and groaning – / my love is ripe for the dethroning.”


 
For Disenchanted Melody, the tension is back – although this time it’s in the even-more implicit shape of a hushed, mantric Slint-meets-Velvets thrum; a hauntingly sour psychedelic vocal drone, filled with foreboding. A guitar sets up a ceaseless metallic shiver behind the murmuring, harshly lovely harmonies and the gathering darkness of the words. “Night collapses suddenly… disenchanted melody / gently washes over me – / the sound is there, / the sound of air…” Even before the final burst of clanging guitar racket and hellish chorale, the air’s been sucked away around the song, whipped off down the streets where the family prowls.


 
This is a dark and powerful band, who hang around like a threatening cloud even after the music stops.

The Scaramanga Six: ‘Are You One of the Family?’
Wrath Records, WRATHCD01 (barcode unavailable)
CD-only EP
Released:
April 2001
Get it from: (2020 update) buy CD from The Scaramanga Six Shop; download from Google Play; stream via Deezer, Apple Music or Spotify
The Scaramanga Six online:
Homepage Facebook Twitter MySpace Soundcloud Bandcamp Last FM Apple Music YouTube Vimeo Deezer Google Play Spotify Amazon Music
 

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