The Tempest - 5 Against the House - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Tempest - 5 Against the House

by Mark Steele Rating:6 Release Date:2016-07-10

This is a recent re-release of the 1984 Anagram Records album from makeshift goth-rock unit The Tempest, the combined project of guitarist Mark Refoy (Spacemen 3, Spiritualized) and vocalist Alex Novak (Venus Fly Trap, Attrition). 

Repetitive synth stabs leading to a 16-beat hi-hat drum-beat open 'Montezuma' with a madcap Duran Duran-esq drive. It has 60s surf-garage-rock fronting a party tune, the lyrics,"Sugar and spice and all things nice/ Shoot it to the left and shoot it to the right" are quite comical, featuring some crazy laughter thrown in near the end.

The rapid drums and bass on 'Lady Left This', has this repetitive tom sound which could be a later counterpart of the electric jug noise from 60s Texan psychedelic rocker. The Cure-ish feel in the song with a driving chorus, providing a definite funky edge which makes it a dancefloor filler.

The nobbly bassline, niggling, gritty guitar and pacy straight-forward drums on 'Ice Cold In' take things down just a notch, though the manic, shouting vocals are frantically catchy. Likewise in feel is 'Which One', with some strange introductory percussive hits - possible a slackened floor tom - akin to a pre-natal heartbeat monitor. This does not distract from the engaging, foggy mix of pysch chanting, disco bassline, and tribal beats.

The next two songs, 'Better and Better' and 'Big Black Cadillac', stay in the same vein, although 'At a Low Ebb' comes across somewhat hollow, even fair to say unfinished. Thankfully, the band's quirkiness shine through on tracks like the string-infested, abstract hoedown, 'Clara's Bow', while there is a moment of exploration on the eight-minute, spaced-out, progressive disco groove of 'Miss Deep Freeze'. The jilting jazz-funk mover 'Eat the Wall' possesses a late-career Miles Davis trumpet lurking over the bumbling bass and ascending/descending piano motifs.

It almost seems as if a different band appears on the final 'Blame It on the Breeze', a dark surf-psychedelic groove. It is a shame the rest of the album does not have this feel. 

The Tempest delivered a mixed bag with 5 Against the House. It succeeds in confusing the listeners as to the identity presented, delivering a selection of goth, punk, funk, jazz, and psych. Although the first two styles seem to dictate to the others, it has moments of brilliance which could have made it something more, overall though, it ends up as a case of the parts being greater than the sum.

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