Anomie by Death & The PenguinRelease date: July 27, 2018
Death and The Penguin have been around since 2014, when their first 6-track EP Accidents Happen was released. Anomie is their first full (12-tracks) release.
The album starts slowly (perhaps too slowly) with an atmospheric piece, Hospital Song, before launching into their latest single The Calving Shuffle, with it’s syncopated bass and drum driven goodness. I’d be tempted to miss the first track out when playing this album and go straight for this track.
“Are you hungry? [No I’m full]
Are you scared? [No I got my wife]
Are you ugly? [I’m couture]
Unprepared? [No I’m Swiss army knife]”
Following on is the previous single Kill Saatchi, which is almost jazz-rock in it’s delivery. This jazz feel continues and morphs into something more rocky in Space 1998, which seems to have been lifted in it’s entirety from their first EP, along with Strange Times.
Colour In Me is another syncopated, math-rock anthem, bursting at the seams with energy and attitude:
“You’ve drawn your secret weapon
Now everything’s in black and white
You colour in me”
4 years seems like a long time to produce your “debut” album, especially if you’ve already used some of your early songs on EPs, but these tracks are very well arranged, well delivered and will undoubtedly prove to lead to a well honed live performance.
Track by track guide to Anomie by Tobias Smith
A couple of years ago I took a trip to Cambodia, which was amazing. Unfortunately, I managed to catch a tropical disease. I went to my local A&E and it turned out I had septicaemia and I needed to be admitted. I needed to be in isolation and there were no beds available. At around 3am, they put me on whatever ward they could find a bed in. I could hear all the disembodied groans and sounds from the other patients from behind my curtain, just trying to sleep through some of the fever. That’s where this song comes from, and the album starts.
The Calving Shuffle
This is one of our more directly political songs. The lyrics were written during the time of the protests against the building of the Dakota pipeline. I just threw my anger at the whole Trump/climate change denial/killing the world for a buck thing that was going on at the time. The “calving” in the title refers to a technical term for the process through which ice shears off larger bodies of ice as it warms. It has (almost) nothing to do with a bovine maternity ward.
I’ve always hated adverts and marketing – it seems to me to be a very real evil, and Charles Saatchi is my personification of that. It’s intended to create demand through creating dissatisfaction in the general population. The boundaries between marketing and “real life” have blurred recently with each of us projecting our most desirable selves onto social media for our friend’s consumption. It takes up so much of our visual and cultural space that the “real” feels so remote so as to be unobtainable. I feel like it is having profound impact on how we interact and the expectations we place upon ourselves as people, and even more malevolent forces seem to be taking advantage of this tendency.
This is a live favourite that we originally put on our first EP, but it hasn’t left our set since it was written. Like all the best songs, this one started life when Andy (Acred, Bassist) bought an octave pedal and a distortion pedal. It’s a track we’ve often use as a reference when writing later material and our debut album just didn’t seem complete without it.
Colour in me
Stylistically, this is probably the track on the album with the most diverse influences, but it’s one I think my mum will like. It’s a relatively straightforward love song, but one with a crazy Djent-inspired cross rhythm at its heart. I think what we were aiming for with this song was the sound of Meshuggah opening a pop up Cat Café in Dalston. I think we just about managed it.
This is probably the oldest song on the record in terms of when it was written. I think it’s even older than the band itself. It’s always the sparser songs that are harder to get right, and this one took an age! This one is about the ways in which the memories of our past relationships colour and influence us in the romantic present. It also includes all the fuzz pedals.
Driftwood (God Loves A bird of Prey)
This is a gentle acoustic number, which serves as a moment to take a breather (we do, very occasionally, take the listener into consideration). I will be honest – the subtitle is there mostly to try and discourage people from singing Travis at us at gigs. So far so good – but then again, the record’s only just come out…
It was our attempt to mix chain-gang style vocals with some frenetic post-hardcore. I feel as though Zeal and Ardor have somewhat stolen our thunder since (the talented bastard(s)). This was the first song that we ever released, and although it’s also on the first EP, it felt right putting it on the record. It’s probably the song which most-directly addresses the record’s overarching theme of social dislocation – Anomie. Plus it’s the one that gets shouted loudest at gigs.
This started out life as a bassline with that repeated hook “Abyssinia”. I just really liked the word – it more or less was the colonial-era name for the region we now call Ethiopia, but in this song it refers to a state of dark introspection that we all end up in at one point or another in our lives.
Sometimes you just want to play a riff. This song was written just when I bought my trusty Jazzmaster with exposed strings behind the bridge. There is something wonderful and empowering about making a truly hideous noise and that’s not something we hold back on in this track. It’ll be our next single, and we have a suitably freaky video coming out soon to accompany it.
Was It Kindness
This is probably the weirdest track on the album. This song started off life as a piano piece by Chris (Olsen, guitar player). I wrote the first draft of the lyrics and somehow landed on attempting a retelling of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”. Where Kafka’s story was largely a metaphor for sickness and disability – this song is, for me, more about the moment in a relationship where you realise that you have transformed from an object of affection for your significant other, to one of distain and unending resentment. Gin please.
Like my mother always said, it’s always best to leave your audience contemplating their own mortality. More Gin please.
You can see them live during August:
11.08.18 – Sheffield – The Audacious Art Experiment
12.08.18 – Leeds – Santiago Bar
13.08.18 – Colchester – Three Wise Monkeys
15.08.18 – Brighton – Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar
18.08.18 – Bristol – ArcTanGent Festival