Blackpool four-piece Litterbug sound like every stereotypical disciple of independent music and it's original blueprint's dream. Their strictly no compromise, no sell-out aesthetic is a rarity amongst today's music as a commodity stockbroker mentality, and yet sadly, it also contributes to one of the most negative aspects of this record.
On the press blurb with 'Speaking Through The Gaps', the band admit to carrying out "minimal work" in the recording studio in order to "guarantee that the basic feel of the songs didn't get misplaced in a cloud of digital superiority". Which basically translated into English means this record sounds like it was recorded in their grandmother's outside toilet. Where it quite possibly may have been...?
But production quality aside - prick your ears up in a diligent fashion (and you'll need to if you don't want to miss half of what's going on here) and you'll find yourself listening to the foundations of an exciting, and in places original quartet here.
Frontman Stuart Diggle sounds like a lard drenched soulmate of Mark E. Smith during the vitriolic 'A Simple Contradiction' while 'Smile Is Fake' and 'Subhuman Scum' overflow with enough bile and spite too fill an empty cask at Worthingtons' brewery. Add to this the incisive harmonies of rhythm section Andy Higgins and Karima Francis and you've got the hallmarks of a latterday Superchunk fermenting by the sea.
So, apart from being a little rough around the edges, 'Speaking Through The Gaps' oozes more potential than the new series of 'The Apprentice', and more to the point, reaffirms the dying belief that there really is more to north west seaside resorts than stag parties and chip shops.
The fast rising Blackpool outfit has been described as the best band out of the resort since Section 25. Whilst the description won’t enamour them to the rest of the area’s rock renaissancers this well recorded seven track selection certainly puts them up with the best. There are all sorts of influences, from the Clash to Gary Numan, but there’s also plenty of variety too. Jenny Sparkles is already a stage anthem, Open Sapce is fully retro – and then there’s Subhuman Scum
Currently, Blackpool and the further reaches of Lancashire don’t exactly have the burgeoning music scene of their Yorkshire counterparts, so when signs of creative life do emerge, it’s probably worth a listen. Working their own locale and frequenting Manchester, Litterbug formed as a four-piece to complement the raucous solo writings of Stuart Diggle.
And what an interesting unit they make. Tightly formed around Diggle’s guttural, commanding voice are the bizarrely harmonious backings of guitarist Andy and drummer Karima. Unmistakable from the gritting riffs and peculiar vocal contrasts, the key influence here comes from the likes of Pixies and Sonic Youth – most noticeable in the deranged harshness of ‘Open Space’ or the more well-rounded ‘A Simple Contradiction’. Combining channelled noise with melody lines and an off-kilter disposition, there are elements of Pavement to be heard too, but there’s plenty enough character of Litterbug’s own to see them through.
As an album however, the critical factor with ‘Speaking Through The Gaps’ is it’s production. Obviously deliberate in the minimal treatment that this recording has received, it’s clear that the result fails to capture the raw edge desired beyond sounding merely amateurish. This could be overlooked in tracks like ‘Smile Is Fake’; where the effects-driven guitars and echoed vocals are eccentric for an instance, but elsewhere the lo-fi severity needed has been overly rushed.
Nevertheless, turn up the volume for the closer – ‘Subhuman Scum’ is a darkly visceral crush of layers, showing that this talent will have the endurance to grow. Aspirations aplenty, but missing the target this time.
"From Blackpool ! Recorded in Bispham ! The best band out of Blackpool since Section 25 !"
Former fellow seasiders, The Membranes, might not be happy with that, but already anyone having the guts to dig out an escape tunnel from the grimy, sea misted Vegas, situated on the banks of a large effluent discharge route, next to a Zoo with dead animals in it, deserves some credit. “Speaking Through The Gaps” is pretty basic stuff in terms of recording and production techniques. The female vocals haven’t been exploited well enough, often being left to emit feeble, whimpering “whoos”. But the singing is pretty good through the overall mud of the recording – the ideas are pretty dark and crammed with wall to wall fuzz. “A Simple Contradiction” is bulging with post-punk promise. Some ideas are obvious but well executed, but the often strange “Subhuman Scum” is reliably off the wall and all the better for it. Bucket and spades of promise...they may one day tower above us all, they actually ain’t no donkeys...a pier into the future...could be a golden mile ahead.... etc etc etc etc. You know the score. Worth watching.
Now here is a band taking the bull by the horns and just getting on with it. A raw indie/punk energy and great work ethic should help to take these guys places although it would be nice to hear a little more of a progression musically in the future.
Put Blondie and the B52's into a box, carefully chuck in a hefty chunk of The Clash and sprinkle liberally with contemporary indie/rock vibes, leave to settle for a short while before partaking of the juices and your gonna get a thirst quenching and very sweet taste of Litterbug - Blackpool rock with a difference - this has quality and confidence running right though it!!
Litterbug's use of 'shared' vocals (not so much harmonies!) is fresh sounding and very pleasurable. Their somewhat unorthodox writing and playing style gives Litterbug a distinctive edge that's as exciting as it's unusual. Superbly worked and recorded 'Speaking Through The Gaps' is a beautifully, almost understated, work. It rocks from start to finish. It's stunningly vibrant and original - oh what a pleasure to hear a band pushing away the boundaries of normality to come up with exquisitely crafted new sound and feel; tight, rockin' rhythms fuelled with a sort of lo-fi vocal approach, its superb! This is really very good indeed. Top marks for their creativity, sense of experimentation and belief in pushing at the boundaries to do their own thing.
Each track sounds totally unique yet Litterbug manage to keep their distinctive musical identity and trademark style intact through their brilliant use of pulsating bass and drums that push away at the scorching guitars and superbly effective vocals. This four piece consisting Stuart, Adi, Karima and Andy create a massively intense and intriguing sound that belies their numbers. Here they belt their inimitable way through seven great tracks; 'Laugh Out Loud', 'Jenny Sparkles', 'Open Space', 'A Simple Contradiction', 'Smile Is Fake', 'Looking Back Then' and 'Subhuman Scum'.
Litterbug have hit on a formula that sounds wonderfully original whilst retaining a very commercial side - clever and appealing stuff!!
With 'Speaking Through The Gaps', Litterbug have all the potential to be up there with the 'big boys'. I can easily see them moving away from the lights of Blackpool to even brighter lights and much bigger things.
Peter J Brown aka toxic pete (www.toxicpete.co.uk)
Iridescent, but relaxed in a Kyuss stoner way, Litterbug unite the lazier end of the spectrum with a vim and verve that sees their tunes rush ahead. Karima Francis’ vocals are almost quasi-operatic in this environment especially when allied to a more relaxed Pavement style. Dirty under their fingernails but scrubbed down with an acute awareness of pop.