Each side has its own cover, The Wharves’ side A being a black and white Aubrey Beardsley style image, which couldn’t be more appropriate for the music; heavy Victorian gothic vibes waft through the airwaves like smoke through an opium den – there’s even a song called ‘Past Life 1887’, if you needed any more hints.
It’s that classically British type of melodrama found in hammer horror, Dorian Grey, Jekyll and Hyde and the legend of Jack the Ripper.
The first song, ‘Thick Syrup’, opens with a moody guitar line, soon after we are introduced to The Wharves’ highly melodic vocal harmonies, something that turns out to be one of their real strong points.
The sombre attitude and simple structure of the first song contrasts with ‘Unhand Me’, here that slightly-whimsical classic horror aesthetic makes its appearance, and continues in ‘Motif’.
‘Woodchip’ is the obvious single, with its simple but effective hook and repeated lyrics that really catch you off guard; “I was a precocious child, now I am a beast with a furrowed brow”.
The aforementioned ‘Past Life…’ is a brief acoustic interlude, before ‘Deepwater Horizon’ finishes side A off with medieval-sounding riffs and yet more inventive vocal interplay.
The cover for The Rosy Crucifixion’s side is an old sepia photograph of a woman staring calmly into the camera with a pair of pythons coiled round her neck, perhaps part of a circus act from the 1920s.
Once again, this seems to encapsulate what’s in store – a sound that oozes menace yet seems absolutely non-plussed by it all.
There’s a swagger to their music, a strong sense of casual cool and confidence, I could try to review The Rosy Crucifixion’s contribution to the record in the same way as The Wharves, song by song, yet that just doesn’t seem to fit.
This half of the album weaves together as a whole, shifting and swaying from riff to verse, song to song in a hazy reverb miasma of nearly-atonal surf-punk.
With a split LP, it’s only natural to eventually compare and contrast the two bands – on the surface there are comparisons to be made between the bands and their sounds, which mean the pairing definitely makes sense and works well
Both can be loosely described as ‘garage rock’, and go for a lo-fi recording aesthetic, but The Wharves are by far my favourites in this case.
They have a general feeling of energy and creativity, a willingness to experiment yet still come away with great songs that stand up to repeated listens.
While I might have praised The Rosy Crucifixion for their confidence, in comparison to The Wharves they seem a little bit too laid back, too ready to rely on atmosphere and attitude to get them through rather than taking risks and working on engaging songwriting; apples and oranges though I suppose.
The Rosy Crucifixion’s emphasis on ambience makes them a band that are best experienced live (and preferably drunk), head nodding, eyes half open against a bleary wash of multi-coloured stage lights.
Words: Calum Calderwood