|The Scaramanga Six - 'Cursed' (Wrath Records)|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Thursday, 28 April 2011 06:00|
The troubled journey that this album, perhaps aptly-titled 'Cursed', has taken from fevered musician mind to stereo would, in usual circumstances, prove to be more interesting than the actual recorded product.
But these are not usual circumstances because The Scaramanga Six are the most unusual of bands; brave, crazed and severely off-kilter, their fierce sense of musical independence means that they do whatever they want whenever the hell they want to. One day all bands will be like this.....in my dreams.
Over five years ago, The Scaramanga Six, still to complete work on their 'The Dance Of Death' album which would see release in 2007, began working with Cardiacs frontman, and legendary producer, Tim Smith on a new album. Over the next two years the band worked with the producer at his Wiltshire studio on what was tentatively titled 'A Pound Of Flesh'. Then Smith suffered the heart attack and subsequent stroke that continues to cast a horrible shadow over his life, and the project was shelved.
The band quickly wrote and recorded a completely new set of songs, produced by James Kenosha, and they became the band's fifth album, 'Songs Of Prey', released in 2009. 'A Pound Of Flesh' would remain something of a 'lost album' until May 2010 when the band, consisting now of core trio Paul Morricone, Steven Morricone and Julia Arnez, decided to re-record the album, starting from scratch with producer Alan Smyth who, unlike his disowning Hollywood almost-namesake, is a real person with the notches of Pulp and Arctic Monkeys on his knob-twiddling bedpost. The album now sees release re-titled 'Cursed' and, when it finally hit the speakers after a most tortuous of journeys, I couldn't help but think that the new album name was not apt at all as the only things afflicting this twelve song tour de force are lashings of high quality songsmithery.
Opening track 'Last Roll Of The Dice', bursts of brass gloriously tainting it with curious class, rolls out of the stereo and, after an introductory two minutes that contains more twists, turns and sidesteps than most entire albums, confirms The Scaramanga Six's position as one of the nation's leading exponents of the eclectic and eccentric. But, and this is where things get awfully exciting, the band appear to have fused these traits to a hugely accessible clutch of songs, creating an unlikely radio-friendly amalgam. Take the string-heavy 'Rest In Peace' for example; if this had James Dean Bradfield's voice over it Manic Street Preachers posters would be covered in quotes from Q scribes claiming a five-star joyous return to form. The great 'Autopsy Of The Mind', 'Damned If You Don't, Damned If You Do' - I challenge anyone to take a bite out of these and not get infected by their instant, and extreme, charm.
But, while there is much on 'Cursed' to be loved by the laser penetration of casual clods, happily, there are wonderful examples of the band's uniqueness and carefree attitude toward convention scattered amongst the dozen tracks. 'Dark Matter' features New York noisester Thomas Truax, famed for inventing experimental musical instruments, and is both suitably dark and inspired. 'Walking Through Houses' exudes an epic quality and is subtly impressive, while 'I Can See A Murder' is more in keeping with the kind of song I expected from this album, but amped up to a level previously uncharted - quirky, noisy and thereby essential.
With their sixth, troubled, attempt, The Scaramanga Six may well have produced their finest album to date, however unconventional the back story. Recommended.