The Amazing Snakeheads - Amphetamine Ballads

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2014-04-15
The debut of Glasgow's Amazing Snakeheads is sleazy, red light district noir at it's finest. Each song is a Derek Raymond novel of alienation and desperation cut with Ian Rankin's sense of suspense and atmosphere.
 
'Vampire' kicks Amphetamine Ballads off with demonic fury, sucking the night out of any night-life. 'Night Time' continues to prowl with The Cramps' menacing sense of rockabilly swagger. Vocalist and frontman Dale Barclay veers from vengeful whisper to a blood-curdling scream, a psycho Casanova all hyped up for a night on the dark side of town . And yet, for all the apparent rage,  repeated listens reveal a perversely euphoric sense of joy and a humor which is slyly tongue-in-cheek.

'Swamp Song' displays the band's prowess for sonic soundscapes which creep up on you in the dark before detonating in garage rock fury. With their morphine-styled saxophones, 'Flatlining and 'Everybody Wants to Be Her Baby' stalk in the shadows before erupting in fistfuls of frustration. 

'Memories' takes it's foot off the gas, momentarily flirting with torch balladry ("The honeymoon is over/ There's no fun to be had"), before suddenly erupting into a snarling chorus. 'Heading for Heartbreak' follows and is a more sparse, spaghetti western styled ballad. The guitar work here is particularly reminiscent of The Birthday Party's late, great Rowland S Howard. There's his same signature use of space, silence and melodic dissonance. If this record begins on an amphetamine high, 'Tiger By the Tail' comes down in a purposely muddled, brooding state with its flamenco touches and ghostly female vocals. 
 
Suffice it to say, this is quite the debut. And while bands like The Birthday Party, The Pop Group, Morphine, and especially Gallon Drunk are undeniable influences, the Snakeheads dive in with ruthless abandon, displaying a keen sense of dynamics, lending to each track a sense of suspense and catharsis. Here's a band which truly understands that less is more and  the real test of any record is how many times you hit the repeat button. Happy to report, I can't stop myself. Here we go again...

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