The South London supergroup Warmduscher have carved out a reputation for dirty, oddball rock over the past few years with a slew of shows across the capital and their essential debut Khaki Tears. New album Whale City turns up their sleazy schtick to 11; it’s dangerously debauched, infested with twisted riffs and cleverly assembled by Dan Carey’s production. Whilst Carey’s guidance helps the 5-piece consolidate their sound into a ballsy second album, it may leave you hungry for more rather than pleasantly satiated at only 8 songs and 3 interludes.
Opening with one such interlude, ‘The Beginning’, swirling synths back the spoken word sermon of Clams Baker Jr., the band’s street preacher, as he details his journey to the eponymous Whale City. It’s an intelligent idea which just about serves enough of a purpose to swerve coming off as a stunt – it grounds the album in a narrative, giving it a sense of direction and change in pace, in much the same way as the debut of contemporaries Goat Girl (also produced by Carey). Goat Girl used it to break up the lengthy 17 tracks – a cynic could accuse Warmduscher of padding out an album with them.
Outside of the interludes, the band let pungent, escalating riffs loose over dangerous and propulsive rhythms. On ‘I Got Friends’, menacing guitar licks play in counterpoint to bullish bass lines, with the overall effect one of ramshackle, impending disaster. The group teeter on the edge of catastrophe for the majority of the album, with the interludes stepping in again to offer respite and rebalance. ‘1000 Whispers’ is Ty Segall’s take on ‘Anyone Who Knows What Love Is’, romantic balladeering meeting dirty feedback, while the album closer is a dub-inspired lounge music parody. Baker Jr.’s falsetto see the track oddly reminiscent of Gorillaz at their most docile. For all the erratic madness elsewhere, the band know how to steady the boat.
Known for their high-octane live performances and equally charged recordings, Whale City pulls back the curtain and unmasks Warmduscher as the romantics no-one had ever suspected them to be. Distracted by the catchy theatrics of filthy riffs, the band smuggle in ballads and interludes and allow audiences to bask in their warm glow. Elsewhere, it healthily finds balance in its interludes, even if they do threaten to swamp the songs on show.
Hedonism is centre stage but Whale City has so much more to offer – just ask the tourism office.
WHALE CITY BY WARMDUSCHER IS OUT NOW VIA THE LEAF LABEL. ORDER HERE:
Lead image: Jack Parker