Image Credit: Come Play With Me Records
This double A-side release is the latest output from Come Play With Me, a not-for-profit label based in Leeds known for its series of split 7" singles from new bands on the scene. 'Big Cat' comes from Uncle Buzzard, a five-piece based in Leeds, while 'That's My Ego' is from Manchester three-piece Faux Pas. Each band takes a refreshing look at the dilemmas and conflicts of contemporary existence. You can listen to the full release here, and order the 7" vinyl from here. Also, catch Faux Pas on their upcoming tour supporting LIFE on 4 October at FortyFive Vinyl Café on Micklegate, and again at Fulford Arms on 29 October.
'Big Cat' begins with a progression of off-kilter, jazzy synth chords which are the musical offspring of the last generation of woozy bedroom-poppers – I'm thinking of Homeshake, Mac Demarco, Connan Mockasin and the like. This is the sound which will come to the mind of most listeners, but it is unfair to immediately assign Uncle Buzzard such a musical box: their music is too interesting to be dismissed as deriving from other influential artists of a similar sound. There is definitely innovation in Uncle Buzzard's approach; they are clearly interested in doing something different with a familiar sonic palette. The cool bedroom-pop with which the track begins is interchanged throughout with galloping, pacy sections with funky syncopated chords, and phrases of big prog- influenced riffs. The track ends by sliding into an oblivion, with dreamy backing vocals and delayed guitars sinking away into a musical coma.
Lyrically Uncle Buzzard are also interesting. 'Regressing from the big cat to a kitten', lead singer George drawls in the opening lines of the single. Uncle Buzzard have produced a piece of music which is lyrically candid, confronting the experience of growing up and re-evaluating the idea of masculinity as an adult in a world which is constantly changing. He describes the lyrics as concerning '[longing] for the feeling of being this King of the Jungle, but instead reflect the feeling of someone who has spent their life as anything but. Someone who has spent the majority of their life in their imagination, but instead realises that they are out of their depth and needing to embrace reality.'
> 'Uncle Buzzard have produced a piece of music which is lyrically candid, confronting the experience re-evaluating the idea of masculinity in a world which is constantly changing.'
This is a sentiment which no doubt resonates with many of today's youth, those of us who are encouraged and urged from an early age to aspire to great things, only to realise the obstacles which are in fact set against us from the very beginning, but those we only realise are there once we are old enough to experience them. 'Big Cat' is alt-rock of the generation for whom cultural identity and autonomy is a battleground, debt is quotidian and the housing ladder is constantly being yanked out of reach.
On the other hand, Faux Pas offer a musically very different offering while conveying very similar feelings of discontent. The sound of 'That's My Ego' is disturbed, with scuzzy guitars rattling all the way throughout. Chords are dissonant, riffs are screaming, and the vocal performance is angsty – with lines such as 'I'm alone inside my head', and 'I'm only half a man' consolidating a moodiness which runs throughout the song.
With all this being said, as a single it is not at all without structure. The song retains a level of measure and poise which holds the musical chaos together in one compact, potent whole in the vein of the Pixies. Essentially, 'That's My Ego' is a stellar example of well-done pop punk – not that kind of pop punk, but rather a kind of song which manages to encapsulate the energy and discontent of a generation in a sound which is raw and abrasive, paired with a sense of composition which utilises to its benefit the conventions of pop music.
> "Being sedated is bliss but it allows people to basically settle for a life they don’t want without the self belief that they can change things."
Part of this punk spirit, in the project of capturing the feelings of this generation of youth, is a lyrical awareness which cuts through just as much as the loud and impetuous musical character does. The music has to say something in order to be effective. Like Uncle Buzzard, Faux Pas also make a convincing attempt at this – and it is clearly an important artistic quality considered by the band. There is a certain concerted authority about the attitude of the lyrics, reflecting the music that surrounds it. Singer and guitarist Ru Cowl explains that ''That’s My Ego' is about defiance and control. I feel like there is a really small number of things that we really have control over and I think it has a really profound effect on people, mostly negative.' This is indeed felt throughout the song. It is a defiant struggle for power; a song about the bitter taste left behind by much of modern life, but also about trying to salvage something out of it – like art, music and a sense of autonomy being won back.
Ru also goes further to identify the problem of the fact that many young people today feel the need to numb themselves to reality: 'I find that a lot of our generation find [struggling with a lack of control] frustrating and end up self medicating through drugs and alcohol in an attempt to sedate themselves. Being sedated is bliss but it allows people to basically settle for a life they don’t want without the self belief that they can change things.' If this is true, then Faux Pas is a band which does not wish to settle for what is widely believed the best we are allowed to get. 4/5