REVIEW - Pet Needs - 'Fractured Party Music' (album - XtraMile Recordings)
Pet Needs are great! If you're of the same mind as myself, chances are you realised they were great the first time you saw them live at one of their sweaty, energetic, intense, full-on shows (for me - SwanFest 2018) and have remained bowled over by their recordings and gigs ever since. For great live bands - especially those that specialise in energy and intensity - the trick when recording a full album must be to try to replicate that energy and intensity in enough quantity to make the record as exciting as the live show, while at the same time, reigning in the energy and intensity enough so it shows off some of the band's subtler attributes and doesn't bludgeon the listener at home into submission - my tolerance for 'energy and intensity' is greater after two or three beers in a packed venue rather than contemplating a mountain of washing up at home!
'Fractured Party Music' succeeds on both counts. It's a vibrant, loud (when it wants to be), effervescent record with all the live Pet Needs attributes very much in evidence - the breathless tunes, the rabble-rousing choruses, singer Johnny Marriott's 90mph vocal delivery and once again, thanks to Tom Donovan's superlative production (with some help from Frank Turner) a wild, exciting, sound. George Marriott's guitar playing is on fire throughout - slicing through visceral solos on 'Tracy Emin's Bed', 'Toothpaste' and 'Kayak' - while the rhythm section of Rich Gutierrez (bass) and Jack Lock (drums) drives each tune on relentlessly. Yet there are varied and intriguing production touches throughout - the cello on 'Outline', 'As The Spin Cycle Span' and 'Embers', the vocal intro to 'Scratch Card' (along with that tunes almost 'skiffle' like feel), the thirty seconds of guitar noise at the album's start and the stately, sombre tone of album closer 'Embers'. The band align themselves with the punk movement but, musically at least, this is as far removed from the likes of Green Day and the Pistols as can be.
And then there are the lyrics. Literate, witty, intelligent and memorable - just a selection would include 'Write Drunk, Edit Sober' ('Scratch Card'), 'You've had the same loose gaze for as long as I remember' ('Toothpaste'), 'And I'd rather be buried in a pet cemetery', chances are I'd be surrounded by much better company' ('Roses') - but throw a dart at any of the lyric sheets for this album and it would land on a perfect gem from Johnny Marriott's pen.
Which brings us to 'As The Spin Cycle Span', the album's highlight. Situated slap-bang in the middle of all the 'whoa-oh' choruses and visceral excitement, it's a delicate, acoustic track backed by cello which tells the story of the down-at-heel labourer fixing kitchen appliances whose life has taken a wrong turn following an art-school mistake by his teacher. It's a mournful song, full of regret and disappointment for the protagonist of the story. Mmm - a string backed song, mournful of tone with stories of regret and disappointment for the characters reminds one a little of the mid-60s Beatles tune with vicars darning their socks and spinsters keeping their face in a jar - 'As The Spin Cycle Span' is just as good!
Eleven tracks in thirty-four breathless minutes, 'Fractured Party Music' delivers on the promise of all those great shows. Pet Needs are great! This album makes them just that little bit greater!
'Fractured Party Music' can be picked up from all the major digital sites, with CD and transparent blue vinyl editions available from the Pet Needs bandcamp page - www.petneeds.bandcamp.com or their record label XtraMile Recordings - www.Xtramilerecordings.com