Thursday, 12 July 2012

Olo Worms - 'Yard Is Open'

What do we know of Olo Worms? There are at least four of them – that much is clear. They have links with Fife’s much loved Fence collective, they recorded a great session for the Marc Riley programme a couple of years ago, and their last EP was released as a USB memory stick in a miniature coffin. They’re probably based in Bristol. Beyond that, they’re a mysterious bunch – more like a communal brain with creative mania than a traditional band, and as likely to be discovered via their surreal videos or culture vulture blog posts as their actual tunes. The number of guests involved - King Creosote, Rozi Plain and François & the Atlas Mountains among them – only adds to the sense of this debut album as a collective endeavour.

Olo Worms seem prepared to turn their attention to almost any genre of music in the service of a lyrical whim. ‘Yard Is Open’ contains bits of everything – electronica, indie folk, hip-hop, psychedelia, lo-fi rock, even a hint of mariachi brass on the Mexico ’86-referencing ‘Back From England’. This magpie approach isn’t without precedents, from the crackpot genre experiments of Zappa and Ween to the cosmic pop collages of The Residents and The Beta Band (a likely influence), but – crucially – Olo Worms are waywardly individual. They’re also seriously funny in an irreverent schoolboy way, especially on ‘Barbershop’, in which priapic white-boy rap gives way to a Butthole Surfers-style psychotic dirge containing some belated advice for Kurt Cobain.

For all their surface daftness, Olo Worms have impeccable songwriters’ instincts when it comes to framing ideas. Curios like ‘Ol’ Boozy’s Chug Thump’ and ‘Eating Every Living Thing’ last long enough to act as fun digressions, whereas weightier tracks like the breezy ‘Strays’ or narcotic ‘Snake’ are given space to stretch out wantonly, the better to show off their fine construction. Nothing outstays its welcome. The closing ‘Sphinx’ – the album’s closing tour de force – is as mysterious as the beast that shares its name; six minutes of spirit summoning dance-rock mayhem that asks some serious questions about other bands’ lack of ambition. That an album as wilfully progressive as ‘Yard Is Open’ repeatedly delivers the emotional goods – creepy, touching, hilarious – is a massive turn up for the books.

'Yard Is Open' will be released 13th August. Download 'Strays' here.

Olo Worms play The Louisiana, Bristol on 10th August and The Old Police Station, Deptford, London on 11th August.

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