Yeah Well by ReciprocateRelease date: July 17, 2020
Label: Gringo Records
Reciprocate spring from the bones of Shield Your Eyes, Stef Kett (guitar/vocals) and Henri Grimes (drums) previous band from whose final album they take their name. So there’s some continuity there but a new name and another new bass player (Marion Andrau) announce a new approach to things. Coming from the right place you might call it a more ‘pop’ sensibility. They call it ‘soul-spray music’ aiming for the emotional investment rather than the genre structures of soul. Yeah Well is their first clutch of songs, a short and vivid puzzle.
Lead off tune ‘Pray Tell’ sets out their stall, guitar and drums kicking and screaming into the foreground on a song about relationship turbulence. Its regretful lyric squirms with uncertainty “maybe only try and change one thing at a time” while pushed around by spasms of musical intensity. This is the basic idea of the band, love songs played at full force and high volume to achieve an emotional frenzy. The loose song structures are contorted by hyper charged playing, anchored by the bass. Second track ‘Tascam’ swiftly chews up these ground rules with a bunch of reverse tape noise and a chunk of cricketing legend Ian Botham reading from his autobiography.
It’s like an intro piece for the record but, in typically awkward fashion, it comes after the first song. As Beefy says he wants to introduce us to the real Ian Botham his name is overdubbed by Marion Andrau’s mellifluous pronunciation of reciprocate and we’re tipped into a song named after her. ‘Marion Andrau’ the song is a scrappy rager something like Sonic Youth in lo-fi garage mood with the kind of sideways assault on a classic rock riff you’d get from Thurston or Lee. I’m not sure how it fits into the love song idea, seeming more like a series of possibly rhetorical questions to the bass player. It also finds room to worry about Matt from Sly & The Family Drone’s recovery from a van crash. Maybe it’s a love song to friendship, who cares it’s pretty fun.
‘Marble Arch’ is a more straightforwardly indie rock tune with a sweet melodic sway and slightly less squealing vibrato guitar right up in your face. The title track is a Beefheartian squabble of sound with a lovely repeating soft guitar figure contrasting against its hectic chaos. It may well be the most successful example of what they’re aiming for, Kett’s guitar playing in particular is so good it gets a pt2 which sounds like an unused take being played forwards and backwards. The last track ‘Hold’ has a 90’s alt-rock feel to it and maybe leans back a little more towards the blues structures they would leap off in Shield Your Eyes. It’s got some great drumming from Henri which pushes the sweet melody and chorus into the background.
Yeah Well is only a short release, (an EP? a mini LP?) really just five songs sketching out a rough idea to pursue. Their sound is impulsive and constricted but subtler than it first appears and bursting with possibility. They’re right that down in the underground and DIY scene where they kick about no-one seems to write love songs anymore, although the world is hardly short of them generally. Combining tender feelings with loud and fractured arrangements produces a volatile mix of conflicting impulses. The results here are a bit scrappy but it feels like there’s like plenty of future potential for these experiments.