Screaming Maldini - And the Kookaburra - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Screaming Maldini - And the Kookaburra

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2010-02-22

Self-proclaimed "quirk-core" artists Screaming Maldini are a band tussling over indie-pop's fabric in all directions. Hailing from Sheffield, this lot clearly enjoy a right blimmin' trumpety knees-up over the cynical Northern wit of some of their city's predecessors. Focusing on the more Cockney than Steel City sounding vocals of Nick Maldini, the six-piece combine a ridiculously healthy range of instrumentation into their songs. Their debut EP And the Kookaburra contains just enough guitars on it to keep them indie-based, but pop's sillier and more daring hand grips frequently enough to squeeze these out of focus. Not a bad hand, that.

Opening with the enjoyably energetic 'Secret Sounds', about the song of the kookaburra (Sheffield's native bird), the band uses syncopated drumbeats and sing-along choral melodies to get the listener as excited as they are about this critter's tune. The lyrics are simple and affable, and suit this light-hearted jangle-fest of a piece. It is clear from the first utterance of Maldini, however, that he sounds remarkably similar to other lead vocalists of the 'Suvvern and shaaty' variety, namely Bloc Party's Kele Okereke and Blur's Damon Albarn. This comparison is likely to linger on and no doubt they know this and realise it's better than sounding like Sting. Nevertheless, the style sits comfortably with the song and sets the tone for the contrasting layers of harmony scattered over the entire EP. On with 'The Extraordinary', and here is where the brass kicks in to full effect with an annoyingly contagious riff, supported in parts by another helping of choir-like backing singing. The song trots along happily with some Latin-like guitar hooks and throws some kooky time signatures into the mix, which work up into a heavier, guitar-centred few bars towards the song's finish - unnecessary, but thankfully it's a brief blip and the song is rounded off with a return of the horn melodies and spring-stepped beat, holding the chipper mood.

'The Albatross' is the stand-out track; the emphasis here switching to lush, whimsical melodies and affably sweet vocals from the female vocalists. It is a slower, more atmospheric tale of the sea, but a far cry from the more predictable shanty-esque pop sound made fashionable by such bands as Vampire Weekend, mainly due to the soaring backing harmonies and simple but bold composition. The quality of this track shows Screaming Maldini's sound could be improved by the inclusion of more lady voices, with the lead on this sounding pure and unembellished and lending the band a more serious quality. The song climaxes with a vocal chorus Florence Welch would be proud of, complete with pianos, crashing cymbals and even sounds of the actual-in-real-life sea, in case, worryingly, you had forgotten the theme.

And The Kookaburra's final two tracks jerk back once more to the overall Maldini-style mix of indie guitar, brass and erratic beats. Rhythm roams sporadically, and this works well on the lengthily titled 'I Know That You Know That I Would Wipe The Snowflake From Your Eye', which contains some fervent 'woo's scattered around for good measure despite the lovelorn air of the words. Final track 'Miniatures' is the weakest of the EP's tracks, with a relatively dull melody and an overkill of Cock-er-ney delivery. The misplaced ska and squelchy key combination halfway through the song ruins it further: while the band can use genre inventively at times, it can also tread the fine line of bending it pointlessly. This last track aside, this is a confidently assured venture into music from Screaming Maldini, and is more engaging than the majority of indie being churned out of the British music scene at present. These folks are not afraid to surprise, right down to their favourite local bird.

Clare Stemp

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