Micachu and The Shapes - Never - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Micachu and The Shapes - Never

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2012-07-23

For all the finely-crafted pop-smarts which lurked under its fuzzy, lurching noise, Micachu and the Shapes' 2009 debut album Jewellery's greatest weapon was its novelty and shock-factor. Its home-made instruments, vaccum cleaner interjections and grime-meets-skiffle experimentation meant that it sounded like nothing which came before it.

Never, it has to be acknowledged, sounds very much like Jewellery. Following the interesting diversion of last year's Chopped and Screwed (two songs from which, 'Low Dogg' and 'Fall' turn up on Never) , recorded live with the London Sinfonietta, Never returns the band to the electronica-in-a-junk-yard sound of their debut. However, if the clattering likes of opening track 'Easy', complete with vaccum cleaner solo, and the short, sharp shock of 'Waste' sound familiar, it also strikes you that they don't sound dated at all.

The sound Mica Levi patented has not been adopted by anyone else. It still sounds very English, perhaps even London-centric, a curious and unique mix of Syd Barrett whimsy (listen to Never's 'Top Floor' and 'Fall') and tough, urban street sounds. However, you could also imagine it emerging from a Berlin squat - there's a definite trace of the pranksterishness of Can and Faust here, as well as the wilful collision of clashing electronic and acoustic sounds.

Again, beneath the attention-grabbing noise, there are tunes to be savoured: 'Holiday' has a lovely, Beatles-esque Eastern wooziness to it as well as a light-hearted, sing-a-long chorus of "Cannot wait for my holiday". 'You Know', meanwhile, manages to sounds candy-coloured pop-bright and murkily threatening at the same time. However, there's nothing that quite matches the instant catchiness of 'Golden Phone' or 'Lips' from Jewellery, two addictive tracks which made their debut such a thrilling confection.

Instead, harder sounds often abound on Never: the techno-recorded-in-bathtub pulse of 'OK'; the motorik, ping-ponging beat of 'Heaven'; 'Low Doog's industrial-dub noise. These tracks, along with 'Holiday' for the particularly strong midsection of the album. Elsewhere, 'Glamour' reminds of The Slits' 'So Tough' and 'Love Und Romance' with its interjections of girly phone chatter: "He's not my type, yeah, he's just normal." Penultimate track 'Nothing' is probably as close as this band can get to a show-stopping ballad; it sounds like a yearning, 50s doo-wop number recorded onto an old, mangled cassette tape.

Perhaps Never shows off this band's greatest strength: Mica Levi herself. She's a formidable songwriting talent who appears blissfully unaware of any compositional rule or industry standard. What's more, she remains an enigma, her wry observations of 21st century hidden amongst stream-of-consciousness junk and dreamlike mumblings. Like perennial he-fossil Mark E Smith, you feel she has the ability to make both great pop and challenging art-noise, and both are likely the same to her. Even if it's more of the same, I can't wait to see what she does next.

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