Named for a NES games from way back when, Menace Beach are a five piece Leeds-based indie rock band. Headed up by Ryan Needham and Liza Violet, and obviously heavily influenced by the 90s pinnacle era of indie pop, this album is fun and well worth a listen for fans of The Seahorses and Ash. On vinyl.
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- Ratworld by Menace Beach
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‘Ratworld’ is a cosy little record. That’s no mean feat: considering that Menace Beach are making that type of fractured music that comes about when punk rock and noxious indie pop intersect, it manages to slack its listener into the next deep sleep. Its scuzz is soothing, its fuzz healing: the chords languish with little to no commitment and the vocal coos are as effortless as we all wish we could be. Oh, and this shit is unabashedly nostalgic -- it’s named after a NES game, which is a bridge too far for this N64-pedalling writer. That throwback is a source of comfort for Menace Beach -- why live in the disappointingly new world when you can live in a world of old adventures? The band’s ‘90s indie homage (a little Pixies, a bit of Superchunk side-eye) suggests that dirty guitars are to music what shitty pixels are to your favourite video game: tried and tested.
Menace Beach are a Leeds revolving supergroup of sorts, having brought in many of the scene’s mainstays (including members of Sky Larkin and Hookworms) to scroll through various rock ‘n’ roll duties. It’s Liza Violet and Ryan Needham’s hobby-horse, though, and ‘Ratworld’ feels like one of those classic indie rock records in which it’s Just The Two Of Us; two friends exchange stories and harmonise over the guitar squalor, cutting through the shit and the synth. Needham’s fractured vocal (which is reminiscent of Colin Meloy, sans country rawk backing him) is met with Violet’s at every opportunity, in simple harmonies or validating lyrical exchanges. There’s a full band backing this record, which has a culminative effect -- this doesn’t sound bedroom produced, and gets kinda transcendental on the full-bodied shoe-gaze of songs like “Blue Eye” -- but ‘Ratworld’ ultimately sounds like a duo hauled up in static.
‘Ratworld’ is a muddily performed record, but it’s heard crystal clear: its melodies are articulated gorgeously, never interrupted by the squeal of one of the band’s choice moments of feedback, which are always placed tactfully out of sight. “Tastes Like Medicine” captures one of those totally sublime moments indie rock can occasionally give out, ambling to its chorus with a sparkly guitar riff, switching to grunge and then going into one of the catchiest choruses in indie pop memory -- Needham rushes through it, knowing these moments are best left brief.
For a record that’s been done a thousand times before and then some, ‘Ratworld’ feels quietly special: the exchanges between Needham and Violet feel wide-eyed and full of excitement, and like the old bands they rip, their energy levels are maxed out. Nostalgia has never been indie rock’s problem: it's commitment to the cause that matters. For all their quick thinking and songwriting intuition, Menace Beach might as well be living in a NES.
9/10 Joe Customer review, 6th April 2015
As someone infatuated with the garage, psych, beat and soul sounds of the mid to late 60's, I rarely bother with much "modern" music. When I do make the effort to seek out new music, it tends to be stuff with a retro sound or style. Menace Beach, for me, basically tick all the boxes, without being a re-enactment of sounds from years gone by. I'm sure they have superb record collections themselves but they manage to maintain their own sound throughout. They have the catchy, edgy, instant satisfaction of the two minute garage punk kids of 1966. They have a swirling psychedelic depth of sound to keep things interesting over the full album. That said, they're not even remotely attempting to produce an authentic 60's sound and the similarities with the music I normally listen too is likely due to a shared youthful exuberance. The sound is perhaps more Pixies or My Bloody Valentine than anything. Particular highlights for me are Fortune Teller, Tennis Court and Infinite Donut. Just buy it, it's really good.
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