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The Cesarians – Pure White Speed

Not Your Average Type /Genepool

The Cesarians - Pure White SpeedThe Cesarians are back, which is great news for all lovers of the dark and depraved, as well as punks and lovers of stuff that rocks hard who have become bored with endless guitar solos. Although they’ve long since broken their own self-imposed “no guitars” rule, that hasn’t stopped them continuing to resolutely plough their own brass-driven furrow to the end of the field where all the bad shit happens.

Their long-awaited new album is a two-part epic, and right from the moment you see the title Pure White Speed you know they’re not fucking around. And just like ACTUAL amphetamine abuse, PWS is the source of a veritable smorgasbord of exhilaration, paranoia, bliss, soul-searching, sleepless nights, bad ideas and great stories. The two parts showcase the different sides of the band, the two different flavours of intensity.

From the atonal opening to “Meltdown”, into which pile thundering drums, dragster noises and angry-traffic brass, it’s fairly clear which is which. It’s got everything you want from a Cesarians floor-filler: a rock-solid piledriver of a rhythm section, Justine Armatage‘s intricate piano melodies picking their way carefully through a minefield of honking great stabs of brass and, somewhere in the middle, frontman Charlie Finke exercising his demons (not a typo; they’re getting a real work-out, and none of your hippie yoga bollocks either).

There’s a real low-down and sleazy take on “Woman” which is, if anything, even lower down and sleazier than ever, then a scratch of strings throws us into “She Said”, an instant classic with a sweary chorus you’ll find it hard not to keep singing to yourself at inappropriate moments. I’ve already once seen the chorus written on a toilet wall in a random venue. It’s that kind of track. Only better.

Prowling piano at the bottom and crazy parping at the top come on like a tighter Birthday Party, but still reeling and lurching drunkenly from chorus to verse and back again, knocking over all your furniture in the process. But fuck that furniture. It was shit anyway. Just let this song fall through your coffee table. It’ll be glorious. And mind you don’t cut your feet on the resultant glassy-speckled carpet during the frantic carnival punk of “Creation Theory”, in which you keep suspecting World/Inferno Friendship Society might be lurking outside the door, slightly too nervous to ask them to keep the volume down a little. Part 1 is brought to a violent end with the sonic spree-killing of “Manquake”, which takes no prisoners even as its mind disintegrates.

Part 2 sees The Cesarians travel inward, with all the morbid introspection and arcane intensity that traditionally follows on the heels of any decent chemical rush. “Post-War Blues” is all insistent strings and Hellraiser bells, like someone just opened a LeMarchand Box in the middle of a chamber recital and is just waiting for the Cenobites to show up and eviscerate everybody’s asses.

The eeriness just intensifies with the title track, whose Vocoded vocals and luscious orchestration give a Current 93 (or even Coil in their more baroque moments) vibe to the whole affair, a looping piano motif underpinning a pre-apocalyptic building crescendo of strings and stormclouds, whose rain continues into “This Way”, which sees Charlie’s voice twisting and curling smokelike through shafts of light pierced pizzicato-style in the gathering twilight. For all its modernist credentials, it’s a chanson from the old skool, with a sadly triumphant chorus which weould have made Brel himself cry.

“Everything Dies” carries the torch further, to the point where you wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he suddenly started singing in French. This is the soul-searching flipside to part 1’s excesses, and it’s beautiful in its comedown sadness, like Arab Strap jamming with the Bad Seeds after a particularly heavy night out in some dive bar that they couldn’t find the next day, or indeed ever again, if their lives depended on it. “Control” picks the pace up again a little, like the Sunday afternoon hair of the dog, and is possibly the most conventional pop song here with its chorus harmonies and breezy melodies wafting away the black smoke from its dark and burning heart.

And just like REAL drugs, that’s the point where you want to start doing it all over again from the beginning. Ladies and gentlemen, Pure White Speed. Now get it up your fucking nose.

-Justin Farrington-

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