His Electro Blue Voice Ruthless Sperm (Sub Pop Records)
Sub Pop's newest Italian signing brings the noise on its hard-charging, full-length debut.
Though the label previously signed Marco Fasolo's Jennifer Gentle, that group's US output, despite its offbeat charms—a crazy, mixed-up combination of acid folk, prog rock, free jazz, and high-pitched vocals—didn't make much of an impact Stateside. Here's hoping His Electro Blue Voice has better luck.
If you miss the curiously exhilarating rush of early Killing Joke, you'll probably enjoy Ruthless Sperm as much as I do. And I don't mean to damn the trio with faint praise by comparing them to another outfit. They're not completely biting Jaz Coleman and co., but singer-guitarist Francesco Mariani wields an equally cathartic howl (which also recalls Stephen Mallinder at his most agitated).
If Mariani did nothing but scream, I'd be okay with that, but he can handle the odd subdued moment, too. In fact, it's one of my few complaints about this album: I'd love to hear him turn down the firepower more often, especially since there are only so many vocalists who can tackle both approaches as well (notably John Lennon, who got a lot of mileage out of primal scream therapy). Granted, the more I listen, the more I notice subtle differences between songs, like the quasi-glam vocal on "The Path," but more contrast would do this group good.
That contrast arrives with "Red Earth," where Mariani turns his scream into a whisper, much like David J (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets) in one of his more introspective moods or the quieter moments on Shriekback's Oil and Gold. In other words, there's nothing comforting about it, especially when he evokes a demon on the song's outro—a very giallo-like effect, which is fitting for a band from Italy.
With new releases from No Age and Washed Out attracting more attention, Ruthless Sperm appears to be getting lost in the late-summer release shuffle, and that's unfortunate. It probably doesn't help that His Electro Blue Voice didn't play this summer's Silver Jubilee. Next to METZ, they're my favorite Sub Pop act—and I won't deny that a degree of Italian pride plays into my affection.
Ruthless Sperm is out now on Sub Pop (ruthless sperm are always out).