Sunday, 3 August 2014

Album Review - Algernon Doll - Omphalic

is the third album from the Algernon Doll stable but unlike debut Camomile  and sophomore effort Citalo-pop  it sees singer and lyricist Ewan Grant expand his bedroom project, fleshing out Algernon Doll into a three piece band. 

Strictly speaking, Algernon Doll has been more than just a nom de plume for Grant for a while.  Long time producer Tom Mitchell has provided instrumentals during recording sessions at Clearwater Studios in Perth and 2013's Citalo-pop  saw the first footsteps into full band mode with live shows from this point often being boosted with additional musicians.  What sets Omphalic  apart is that this album is the first written with a full band in mind, with Wull Swales taking up the bass, and Owen Wicksted on sticks, while Tom Mitchell again providing drums during recording.

Opener Spilt Milk Perfume  with it's chiming guitars and persistent hooks instantly rewards on a album that displays the ever growing talent and progression of Grant as a songwriter.  Comparisons with Elliot Smith have been made in the past, Grant's intelligent and 'beyond his years' songwriting deserving of such an accolade. 

Justine,  another single from the album, endears with the same tender lyrics and melodic prowess.  Pink and Blue, Candy Stripped,  and Goodbye Blue Jeans  all dip into the same territory, allowing Grant's songwriting to flourish.  Those moments, of reflection and introspection, are amongst the finest in the album's 42 plus minutes. 

The finest records are those that provide a coherent mix of influences and sounds; ensuring the listener is kept engaged and interested.  Balancing the softer, mellower side of Omphalic are the abrasive, and grunge drenched tracks such as Suicide, Fellate  and Relate.  The former channelling the angst and rawness of Nirvana circa. Nevermind,  whilst Relate  bursts with anger and sonically challenging guitars. 

It's in these tracks, emphatic and ear-burstingly good as they are, that Algernon Doll are most at danger of straddling too far into the alt-rock/grunge realm and comparisons to Mudhoney, Smashing Pumpkins and Sebadoh.  Luckily there's enough energy contained here that those influences become a footnote rather than an bibliography, with Grant and the band's passion for the music taking us along with them.

The real test for Omphalic,  and where pass marks are filed on all counts, is how it moves along the progression of Algernon Doll; musically and lyrically.  Listen back to Camomile  and Citalo-pop  and you hear moments, glimpse of what has been unwrapped in Omphalic,  hinting that what you've just listened to was there all along.  Grant's devotion to DIY and punk ideals, his fervent attitude to writing and recording and his willingness to let things grow in their own time and space, has paid dividends.  With the band due to record another Shellac member - this time Steve Albini - one suspects those rewards will be reinvested ten-fold.

- Neil Wilson

Algernon Doll - Omphalic is out now on Struggletown Records.  You can purchase the album on green or yellow vinyl here and purchase the album digitally here.

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