Words by Abi Whistance
It’s 3am. You’re wired as hell, staring at the ceiling so intently that black shapes seem to appear and disappear, moving from one dark corner of the room to another. You’re feeling uneasy and slightly scared, but you’re not quite sure if you’re scared of the silhouettes or scared of yourself for seeing them in the first place.
That, right there, is what The Membranes new album feels like.
What Nature Gives…Nature Takes Away is uncomfortable and foreboding, riddled with the rants and ramblings of an inner-dialogue gone rogue. A collision course of material leaves you bumper car-ing your way through clashes of noise, new wave and the odd spoken word piece, all seemingly coming together in one (hefty) release. This album is a heavyweight; 16 tracks long and at times feeling like a bit sluggish, you really must go in with the knowledge that you’ll be stuck in this gloomy rabbit hole for a long time. And not because it’s a no-good bore, just because it’s weighty on the soul.
Post-punk with an added dramatic flair, The Membranes really have pulled out all the stops to make your skin crawl and body shiver – the addition of both a choir and orchestra feeling far too sinister to be listened to alone. Even for them this is dark; the album name almost as cynical as every song on it, human fallacy ripped to shreds track by track.
For a large chunk of What Nature Gives…Nature Takes Away, The Fall springs to mind. Not necessarily a perfect comparison as such, more the brain frantically searching for something familiar to make itself feel more comfortable. ‘A Murder of Crows’ is far more precise and gritty than the works of Mark Smith. Perhaps because, unlike Smith, they’re not so bugged out on drugs and booze that they can’t conjure up any emotion other than slurry nonchalance.
The album itself doesn’t come with a warning, but I’m going to have to give one. This is NSFW: not suitable for wallowing. Avoid at all costs when you think life can’t get any worse, because The Membranes will remind you that yes, it can. And it’s probably your fault. Get ready to feel like your drowning deep in this record, and equally get ready to feel like you might drown yourself if it gets any murkier.
But if you are, on the off chance, feeling like you want to tip over the edge, then listening to What Nature Gives…Nature Takes Away is probably the best way to do it. Well composed, well written and well executed, The Membranes have created something that only the most addicted to unhappiness can listen to in one go, and the rest of us, feeble-hearted as we are, will keep trying because it’s just that good.
‘A Strange Perfume’ – The Membranes
What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away by The Membranes is on general release from Friday 7th June – out via Cherry Red Records. For more on The Membranes, including links to online sales, visit www.themembranes.co.uk
For more on Cherry Red Records, visit www.cherryred.co.uk
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