Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: Malachai - The Ugly Side of Love (* * * *)

Bristol duo Malachai make an awful lot of noise for just two people. Of course, coming after famously loud duos like The White Stripes and The Black Keys, perhaps the considerable volume produced by Gee Ealey and Scott Hendy shouldn't be surprising. But something in the explosiveness and variety of the band's debut, The Ugly Side of Love, makes it seem like there's just more people behind it.Their first effort is a brief blast of rock 'n' roll covering 13 tracks in just over 32 minutes, combining 80s punk swagger with 60s psychedelic rock (along with just a hint of Sublime's white-boy funk) in an often frenzied, consistently surprising blend that makes a fine introduction to these two gifted and ambitious musicians.

The primary ingredients here are scuzzy guitars, jazzy keys and Ealey's gritty vocals over simply effective drums, and though the boys occasionally throw in an unexpected flourish (the horns on "Lay Down Stay Down," for instance) the duo are effective with a fairly limited palette in ensuring the music never feels lacking for substance or style. The songs twist and turn in unexpected ways,and they often end before you'd like them to, but each subsides into another strange, yet hook-filled moment so the momentum never sags. At their best - the groovy opener "Warriors," the crunchy "Snowflake" and the breezy "Moonsurfin'" - the band manage to channel the best of their influences with their own unique spin to a consistently fun and enjoyably messy end that begs for repeated listens immediately.

The Ugly Side of Love may not make the broad impact that many of this year's more notable releases surely will, but there's no denying it's one of this year's best rock records thus far. And I wouldn't be surprised come year's end of the year if I'm saying the same thing.

Fading World (MP3 via Domino Records)