Sunday 21 August 2016

Review of 'How To Ruin Other People's Futures' by Losers

How To Ruin Other People’s Futures is an album that’s as unfriendly as its title – which is good because after hearing industrial banger ‘This is a War’ (recently featured in my best tracks of the week) I would have been pretty disappointed had the rest of the album been meditative ambient music.

Admittedly the London electro-rockers had me worried to begin with, opening the record with some slow synth swells straight off a Banks & Taylor aquarium CD. However, it turns out I simply hadn’t bargained on the fact that Losers are a band equally as capable writing progressive build-ups as they are providing instant thrills. Opener ‘I Never Got To Say Goodbye’ eases itself in before rising cinematically, the aquarium synths making way for eerie backmasked pianos, Paul Mullen's vocals creeping their way into the mix – simmering at first before erupting like an abandoned saucepan of rice left on the boil – the whole track eventually exploding with percussion and walls of distortion. By stark contrast, second track ‘Chainsaw’ cuts straight to the chase, abrasive squealing electronica pummelling the listener from the off. Clearly, Losers aren’t lost when it comes to dynamics.

For the most part, synths substitute guitars, although the rawness and aggression is certainly one of a rock band. Tracks such as ‘The not’ and ‘Car Crash’ feel reminiscent of Death Grips minus the obnoxiousness, or Nine Inch Nails with more atmosphere. There’s even a nu metal feel to some of the songs – borrowing the angst of Limp Bizkit, but carrying the sophistication of Deftones.

Of course, none of these comparisons truly capture the band’s sound, which is teeming with so many other unique idiosyncrasies.  Take ‘Red Rag’ for example - a catchy, off-kilter speedball that sees Mullen alternating schizophrenically between whispering and screaming over a 5/4 pulsing riff interspersed with nutty piano tinkles and epic strings. Sixth track ‘Exit Plan’ meanwhile is a reverb-soaked ballad climaxing with some creepy music box tinkles, managing to sound as powerful as the remaining tracks despite its lack of percussion.

At times a sense of humour wouldn’t do a miss on the record, as the serious lyricism doesn’t always fit in with the wacky instrumentation. There’s some head-scratching  imagery on ‘Exit Plan’ including ‘orange peel guillotines’ and ‘winning with a wooden spoon’ that I’d have liked to have seen more of, and a few more fun choruses like ‘Red Rag’ would have been exciting to hear. Sane listeners may prefer the lack of theatrics, but as a non-sane listener it all feels a bit tame.

That said, I struggle to find any other flaw with this album. Three years in the making, How To Ruin Other People’s Futures has clearly had a lot of tweaking and precision put into it. But instead of getting bogged down in complexity, the band have focused this tweaking and precision into making every track as immediately hard-hitting and downright fierce as possible. The result is a mighty cold-and-steely finely-tuned tank of an album.