The Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads [Domino]

From the record label that brought you arguably the most lauded album of last year – Arctic Monkey’s AM – going by the end of year lists alone, comes the debut album from the rambunctious Glaswegian outfit The Amazing Snakeheads.

As the trio’s Facebook description simply puts, “Don’t judge a book…” some words to take heed of as the record’s opener ‘I’m A Vampire’ jars your expectations with a healthy of dose of Dale Barclay’s venomous vocals (unless you’re already familiar that is).

The first half of the record swaggers along in a haze of aurally offensive vocal deliveries and laboured yet determined musical arrangements; if the band’s black and white press photos didn’t scream “cult British gangster film villains” enough, then this album as the soundtrack is sure to seal the rather slanderous deal.

That’s not at all to say that Amphetamine Ballads is an awful record, it just takes some warming to is all and following a number of listens and a full appreciation of its delightfully refined latter half, this album is undoubtedly one to be treasured if it appeals to your sense of artistry.

“Refined” here, relating to the album’s second half, refers to the lavish instrumentation compared with previous tracks, as flourishes of brass lift The Amazing Snakeheads brash musical trade to something all the more sultry.

An unavoidable characteristic of Amphetamine Ballads, and The Amazing Snakeheads in general, is that guttural Glaswegian twang of Barclay, which has a recognisability akin to Aidan Moffat or even The Twilight Sad’s James Graham, unfortunately it’s infinitely more likely to be a “Marmite affair” in this case.

A bipolar record, of anguished lows and soared highs, The Amazing Snakeheads’ debut is set to divide critics and fans due to the uncompromising delivery, however on the grounds of musical merit and ingenuity (and the epic proportions of penultimate track ‘Heading For Heartbreak’) alone this is a assured debut that will likely plant the trio on the side of the fence where the grass is very much greener.

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Words: Kyle McCormick

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