After lurking in the fecund swamp of South London for what feels like a lifetime, filthy psych party-of-6 Phobophobes have finally surfaced with debut album Miniature World held high above their heads. Relentless gigging centred around the now-famous Windmill (adopted home of other breakthrough acts like Shame, Sorry and Goat Girl) has hardened them into a well-weathered outfit, as comfortable whipping a crowd into a raging tempest as sipping pints at the bar. The album, a tumultuous and unbridled melting pot of psych-rock, is their spoil of war. It’s just unfortunate that a wide-reaching streak of inventive creativity ends 20 minutes before the album does.
Opening with the creeping ‘Where Is My Owner?’, multiple screeching synths, grimy guitars and a bouncing bassline integrate the audience into the band’s terrible plot, like an amoeba engulfing its next meal or the Blob swallowing Phoenixville whole. Coincidentally, across the first half of the album, the band navigate B-movie horror with a contemporary ear, introducing new sounds and dodging camp and garish flourishes.
The tracks relish in a lurking sense of catastrophe: everything is either close to imploding or threatened from the outside by skulking predators in the shadow. While most would run screaming in fear, Phobophobes welcome the menace with open arms and an arsenal of corrosive guitar licks, witty lyrics and haunting vocals. Frontman Jamie Taylor does an excellent job of imitating a reanimated corpse, drawling deadpan in the face of disaster. It’s the equivalent of fun in the eye of a sharknado, or something equally as tongue-in-cheek terrifying.
All of which makes it doubly disappointing when the album reaches track 5 and slowly starts to bleed all sense of identity or inventive flair. The sprawling ‘Free The Naked Rambler’, a single from the depths of 2016, provides a pleasingly paranoid break from the madness, with sparse organs, spellbinding backing vocals and absurd lyrics adding to the group’s wide-reaching sound. However, the said sparsity trickles through the rest of the album and bleaches it of the frantic vibrancy that made side A such a rollercoaster. ‘No Flavour’ and ‘The Fun’ border on landfill, lacking the spark of originality that bless earlier tracks. ‘Bite the Apple’ is a last minute reach, a bare ballad of addiction with painful honesty hidden amongst its naive lyricism, culminating in an understandable grab for the ramshackle fireworks of old.
Read our thoughts on single ‘The Never Never’ here.
An album wrought from the grip of tragedy, it struggles with finding a settled sound and flounders in the home stretch. For the first half, however, it excites and intrigues, threatening disaster with an ear-to-ear grin as the soundtrack to grotty gothic horror. Haunted by ghosts of the past, it’s refreshing to hear a band treading new ground in an increasingly cramped arena. The dirty din comes off like a circus ghost train, turning the scares up so high that harsh reality begins to shine through. Once you’ve pushed through the filthiness of it all and come through the other side, Miniature World can be quite an appealing album at times – or to quote the band themselves, ‘to turn the world on, you have to turn it off’.
MINIATURE WORLD RELEASES 26/01 VIA RA-RA-ROK RECORDS. PRE-ORDER HERE: