Have you ever been woken up by foxes having it off in your garden?
That horrible, intense, screeching noise forcing its way through the encroaching darkness of the hedges, penetrating your safely-locked windows and infiltrating your warm, comfy home.
That is the true sound of the night. The grubby, dirty, slightly disturbing night.
The grubby, dirty night is also where Memphis-based post-punks EX-CULT lurk throughout the cracking EP Cigarette Machine, the fag-end flicking follow up to last year’s sophomore (I just cringed typing that) album Midnight Passenger. Cigarette Machine is the sound equivalent of hanging out on street corners well past your usual school-day bedtime, intimidating any poor bugger who may cross your path.
Opening track ‘Clinical Study’ begins with a frenetic bassline that oozes lamppost anger before the rest of the instruments kick in, forming a clattering clang of street slime and graffiti-addled post-punk. Frontman Chris Shaw barks out the lyrics to each song like he’s well pissed off with the world, and, to make it worse, all local off-licenses are closed.
“I couldn’t stay clean in my routine,” he drawls during the riotous title track, detailing the various seedy temptations of the night, “I tried them all”, before collapsing into a terrace chant of “trouble finds me.” Its desperation paints the picture of a sordid cityscape and the angst that comes from existing in its dim neon glow.
It’s like hurriedly walking home as all light drains from the sky. Tense and on the lookout for possibly stabby dodgy-bastards, or just looking for a late-night garage which sell delicious Wispa Golds – mmmm – Only to be faced up to by a skulk (yep, that’s what they’re called) of aggro urban foxes, freshly shit-covered having recently destroyed a nearby skip. Eyes locked, you know they would absolutely fuck you up without a second thought if they felt you might try to nick their skanky banana skin and crisp packet theft-trophies.
“Trouble finds me.”
The bad sods are on every corner intimidating you with sneering pointy faces. As soon as your back’s turned they’re up to no good.
‘Rats In The Gas Tank 2’ (sadly not a sequel to reggae classic ‘Rat in Mi Kitchen’) is a speedball thrash punk ditty reminiscent of Perfect Teenhood-era …Trail of Dead, without the prog-gothic pomp or black hair dye. During ‘Meda House Company’ Peter Hook gets his pockets well and truly picked and handfuls of Joy Division basslines are dished out amongst the sullen snouted gits.
It’s a post-punk, post-hardcore free for all. At just over a swift 20 minutes, Cigarette Machine is in and out like a flash and never a drag (guffaw!)
‘Your Mask’ adds a woozy, drunken psychedelic climax to proceedings, as the sun comes up and all the foxes fuck off back to wherever it is they hang out during the day (Cafe Nero?) most likely covered in sick, mud and a sense of deep shame at what has just happened. Cigarette Machine feels like that. Well, to me anyway.
Ex-Cult, the wily foxes, scavenging about in the shadows and living it up amongst the bins and shrubbery. I’m looking forward to hearing their next full album. If only I could run them without getting my shoes so grubby.
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