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A review of...
Lemon Memory by Menace Beach
Menance Beach bring us their second album Lemon Memory, available on scratch and sniff vinyl (I believe it's the sleeve that you need to scratch, not the record) and other lower-key formats.
As much as the concept of a scratch and sniff album seems like a bit of a gimmick, the music inside it is anything but. The band, a five piece centred around Liza Violet and Ryan Needham, seem to have settled on a more muted, thoughtful sound, at least when compared to their raucous debut, Ratworld.
Apparently this is "Liza's record", whereas Ratworld was Ryan's. And whilst there is clearly a huge amount of input from both key members, it's an interesting approach to recording and makes you wonder if this shared-but-separate approach to creativity is something that will continue as they progress. It certainly seems to be working for them. Lead vocals are still shared amongst the duo, so, like Ratworld, there's a constant changing of mood in that particular department, but the rest of the output is satisfyingly consistent. In terms of sonics it's brassy, crunching and even doom-laden at times. In fact, "Can't Get a Haircut" has moments where you can hear Black Sabbath or Earth creeping into Menace Beach's army of influences. The whole album is wonderfully, warmly textured, and much of the credit for that should probably go to Ross Orton, probably one of the most under-rated producers around (he's done great work in the past including production on Bromhead Jacket's sadly forgotten Dits From The Commuter Belt, which had an equally bold sound).
As the album climaxes Liza's vision seems to take more of a hold, especially on the ethereal "Owl" (where her dreamy vocal talents are shown off to the max). Then album closer "Hexbreaker II" trumps it, ticking all the boxes of a textbook album closer: starting off slow and understated and building up to a satisfying, energised conclusion in just under six minutes (easily the longest on the album). This is exactly how an album should end.
"Lemon Memory" - probably the most ambitious of the ten tracks, this one seems to be inspired by electronic/gothic acts from the turn of the 80s. Moody and haunted, the track features a great vocal turn from Ryan and some sumptuous, Mute Records style keys (along with the usual distorted guitars).