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Asylums - 'Genetic Cabaret' Album Review


1. Catalogue Kids

2. Platitudes

3. A Perfect Life In A Perfect World

4. A Town Full Of Boarded Up Windows

5. Clean Money

6. Who Writes Tomorrows Headlines?

7 . The Distance Between Left & Right

8. The Miracle Age

9. Adrenaline Culture

10. Yuppie Germs

11. Genetic Cabaret

12. Dull Days

I’ve been sat on this record for ages. Not literally, as that wouldn’t be a comfortable place to sit, and I’ve been listening to a digital copy, so I don’t even know how I… I digress. The release date seemed so far away from the date I got it (I don’t think I’d even ever heard of the word ‘pandemic’ at that point) that I just kept on putting it off and putting it off, as other priorities came and went like the tides. ‘Genetic Cabaret’ was always there though and in many ways it’s been the soundtrack to the last few months. And you know what? It’s fitted perfectly. As the country has stumbled from catastrophe to catastrophe, where the rich are rewarded for failure and the poor discarded, when the powerful make and break their own rules without fear of reprisal, when the work of Coldwar Steve starts to look less dystopian and more like real life, a band has captured it perfectly in musical form.

Asylums are back with their third album, their sound has continued to develop and this is their most grown up record to date. The effect is impressive; it’s big, bold and takes no prisoners, it demands to be heard. Luke Branch’s vocal doesn’t so much rail against societal ills, the lyrics (with the exception perhaps of ‘Clean Money’) are more observational than confrontational, but they cut deep. I don’t really like to talk too much about other bands when I review someone’s record, it seems a little rude- Asylums are clearly ploughing their own furrow, doing their own thing, marching to the beat of their own drum.

You get the picture.

However, let me take a moment to discuss the Manics. Without wishing to upset anyone (although I fear I may be about to) the Manics started off brilliantly, and then gradually disappeared so far up their own arses, that over the past few years they’ve actually started to emerge from their mouths and, presumably as a result of once more seeing the light, they seem to be much more appealing. Asylums don’t look like they’re about to undergo a similar colonic self-exploration, but they have the maturity of sound that the Manics grew to have, that almost cinematic grandeur. At the same time, they’re as infectious (and frankly likeable) as James, Richie, Nicky and Sean used to be. Nowhere else is this as evident, as in single ‘Platitudes’. Having been in possession of this record for so long, it was with no little excitement that I heard this track on the radio, and it sounded mint. The runaway train of a riff, the urgent vocals, the relentless drum, the fuzzy pulsing bass, pushed and pulled at me and left me breathless by the end.

I mentioned that this was Asylums’ most grown up record and if I have any criticism of the album, it’s that it can sometimes seem a little too serious. There’s no quirk here, no humour, and in a lot of ways it’s really quite bleak given the subject matter. But then, given the subject matter, maybe a deadpan delivery is what’s required? This may be the band’s third album, but it’s starting to feel like this might be the one that pushes them up a level. They may not be the band we deserve, but they could just be the band we need right now.

Review - Jon Stokes

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