The Amazing Snakeheads - Amphetamine Ballads
- Harris Brine
- 24 March 2014
A debut rock'n'roll album teeming with adrenaline highs of gambling and downtempo, reflective lows
They say rock'n'roll is dead. Granted, it definitely doesn't look like a viable career option, and never has – but one group who just might make a go of it, are Arctic Monkeys' labelmates The Amazing Snakeheads, a hyped Glasgow trio who've just produced this uncooked debut album perfectly fissured down the middle. While the first part is less sentimental and more senti-mental, the latter half is surprisingly downtempo and dominated by reflective loss – which is slightly unexpected given the furious 70-second sermon screech of their first single (a track absent from the album) 'Testifying Time'.
Frontman Dale Barclay howls that, much like Las Vegas, he only comes alive after the sun sets ('Nighttime'). It's not the only time Amphetamine Ballads pays homage to Sin City – there are nods to Elvis-style warbles, evangelist shrieks ('Flatlining'), and the whole album is teeming with both the adrenaline highs of gambling and the downcast clouds after losing it all (particularly on the brilliant 'Heading For Heartbreak').
At times Barclay's vocals teeter ('Memories'), as if struggling to remain perched on a tightrope, but for the most part it works. With an ominous film noir opening, the album's zenith, 'Every Guy Wants To Be Her Baby', saunters on with saxophone and Barclay's bizarre, lip-curled narrative. Then – like a camera flashing a dark alleyway crime-scene – shady silhouettes are fully exposed, with noise ripping through guitars and vocal chords alike.
The body of Amphetamine Ballads is unexpectedly love-stung, though Barclay is quick to remind those getting too soft or disenfranchised with rock'n'roll – on the inadvertently-fitting 'Swamp Song' – that the marsh isn't somewhere the Snakeheads go to hibernate, but to play, and in a coarse roar as alive as it is bloodthirsty adds, 'And you better pray you don't meet me'.
The Amazing Snakeheads play Broadcast, Glasgow, Fri 28 Mar. Released on Domino, on Mon 14 Apr.