published: 29 /
Energetic and enthusiastic debut album from Plymouth-based four-piece Arthur Walker which, however, is challenging because of its lack of focus and direction
Arthur Walker’s debut album starts well. The opening track 'Episode #1' is dark, angular and reminiscent of recent indie new wave bands.
By the second track, though, it’s all changed: the dark clouds have lifted, replaced by an overly sunny disposition. 'Angles and Lines' is a love song of a kind – the lyrics are rather endearing (“I’m sticking to your side/ I am statistically charged”) but its joyful happiness sits uncomfortably so soon after the brooding first song.
Given that the third track is called 'I am a Skull and I am Evil' and begins with the line “Ebola virus, in the hospital they’re waiting for you”, you might guess that it’s not another jolly toe-tapper. But although the song starts slowly it has a couple of infectious hooks that do work well set against the slower minor-key sections.
Incidentally, Arthur Walker isn’t a person – well, he might be, but in this case it refers to a band, a Plymouth four-piece.
The songs are largely credited to the four band members so it’s hard to tell whether the changes in tone and tempo are down to different songs having been originated by different people, but track four, 'My Headphone Attracts', changes in things again. It starts off sounding like nothing so much as 1990s indie no-marks Reef (never a good thing) before changing into another new wave-y tune, but a rather good one, with a couple of C86 guitar licks making up a pretty middle eight.
'This Machine' has a funky bassline, a lopsided time signature and an oddly dated-sounding vocal line that recalls the Kinks in parts. The funk continues for another track but then the next track, 'Face Ache', sounds like Supergrass crossed with Maximo Park. It’s a good song, with a jaunty guitar part and bags of energy. 'Monkey Freeze' is similarly jaunty, with singer Steven Stones temporarily inhabiting the ghost of Tim Booth for the duration of the song.
The closing tracks are among the weaker ones, with the intriguing lyrics of 'Your Great Super Arm' not quite able to save it from its samey melody. While the angry closer 'Jennifer and Joe’s Charisma' is a powerful, ripping, throaty roar, it’s too different from the earlier tracks to make a satisfying end to proceedings.
It’s very well put-together, and the standard of musicianship is high – everything is precision timed and there’s hardly a beat out of place. 'Animal Nights' is a hard listen, though – it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, whether that’s a lopsided indie-pop album or a more moody, introspective think-piece.
But Animal Nights is a very energetic album, and that’s the best thing it has going for it. While the lyrics are sometimes inconsequential and the music doesn’t really know in which direction it wants to pull, the band’s sheer enthusiasm shines through the whole thing, carrying the listener along with it.
Episode # 1
Angles and Lines
I Am a Skull and I Am Evil
My Headphone Attracts
Your Great Super Arm
Horses and Ponies
Jennifer and Joe's Charisma