‘Cosmetic’ is another impressive racket. The odd splash of colour couldn’t hurt, though.
Label: Heavenly Recordings
Released: September 9th 2016
‘Cosmetic’, the title of the second album by self-confessed ‘weird punks’ NOTS, could suggest different things. Is it about improving appearance by shades of powder and pencil, or suffering scalpel and suction?
A few moments into ‘Blank Reflection’, there’s no doubt we’re going under a rusty blade, as Charlotte Watson’s submerged-sounding drums beat a steady, ominous tattoo, the looming menace heightened by bass, warning synth and Natalie Hoffman’s harsh, percussive guitar.
It’s a dark, cold place which the Memphis four-piece’s sound occupies here, scraping away what little veneer the avowedly lo-fi ‘We Are Nots’ had. “I look out my window at night,” Hoffman sneers through a curtain of fuzz, drawing us in to the album’s world. “There’s nothing but cold, cold steel”. Next, ‘Rat King’ ups the tempo, guitars appropriately grimy as Alexandra Eastburn’s synth swoops and pans, a laser beam shot through the murk.
Along with Hoffman’s alternately drawling and hectoring delivery, those keys are still the secret weapon in NOTS’ stockpile, adding a shuddering melody beneath the bracing post-punk rattle of ‘Inherently Low’. ‘Cold Line’, too, gets a hefty dose of droning synth lines, playing off the Slits-ish gang vocals.
There’s certainly “an unrelenting atmosphere of fear” here, as ‘New Structures’ would have it, but it can get a little oppressive. The title track is mostly a sludgy trudge, lurching and staggering out of control, while ‘Fluorescent Sunset’ takes the muffled, raw production to an extreme, sounding like it was recorded from the next garage along.
At its best – the lean thrash of ‘No Novelty’, or the excellent closer ‘Entertain Me’, which doesn’t waste a second of its comparatively epic 7 minutes – ‘Cosmetic’ is another impressive racket. The odd splash of colour couldn’t hurt, though. Rob Mesure