Mica ‘Micachu’ Levi’s last studio album with The Shapes was easily one of the best records of 2009. Bewilderingly left off that year’s Mercury Music Prize short-list, the band’s invigoratingly inventive approach to pop music still won them wide critical acclaim, and left fans ravenous for more.
There have been slim pickings for those fans since though. Last year’s “Chopped & Screwed” LP, a live collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, was a curious, intermittently engaging album that nevertheless felt like something of a stop-gap. Micachu herself seemed to agree, cheekily dismissing it as “a load of old bollocks” and admitting she “felt like a chancer”.
Perhaps she was just trying to pre-empt any accusations of precociousness after having been appointed the South Bank Centre’s youngest ever artist-in-residence, as it’s hard to believe she didn’t feel any pride for the source material. Indeed, the best track from that album, “Low Dogg”, is put through the blender and included here (and retains the buzz of spinning blades from the process).
An insane re-imagining of an old track is about as unoriginal as the album gets. “OK” is all crossed-wires and lurching insistence, “Fall” fills your ears with woozy ketamine jazz, while the bizarre phone calls that intersect “Glamour” could only make sense on an album this insane. The videos the band have made for every track only add to the offbeat cartoonishness.
Naturally, it’ll be almost unlistenable to people of a certain sensitive disposition (i.e. those who aren’t keen on work tools and vacuum cleaners being used as instruments), and the songs aren’t as instantly catchy as some of the classics on “Jewellery”. Yet, though “Never” still sounds very similar to that album, it also still sounds extremely fresh. Since they appeared in 2009, no one has made an album that sounds at all like Micachu & The Shapes, and it’s unlikely any other band ever will. So they’d better keep on bloody making them.