Nightswimming with Vampire Hands
Cuz It's a Beach Funeral
Like a 1950s Woodie with a coffin strapped to the top, Vampire Hands' six-song EP comes rolling into summer with a dark and eclectic mix of noise and pop. Singer Colin Johnson and guitarist Chris Rose share songwriting duties; the former writes loopy, effects-laden noise pieces, while the latter favors guitar-based, distorted pop-rock with a seedy underbelly.
Cuz It's a Beach Funeral's lead-off track, "Statuette," sounds like a heartbeat-propelled sound piece from a David Lynch film, with backward-tracked moans and piercing shards of noise that build into a sinister chant of "You will splash in appropriate black." Juxtaposed with this creepiness is "Paradise Knife Fight," a jaunty, sunny, lil' ditty that's all Buddy Holly guitar (to my ears, the melody line sounds a bit like George Michael's "Faith"—and I mean that as a compliment) and handclaps (yes!). I can't wait to hear it on the radio, driving with the windows down and the system up.
Then it's back into the well, with a short, moody piece that suggests being alone aboard a runaway train on a moonless night in the dead of winter. Funeral dirge "We Widows" is a lamentful waltz, all chiming guitars and lilting vocal harmonies. "And on and on/We dance slow" the voices croon, and just when you're ready to rest your head on the pillow of sound and pull up the covers, you're pulled effortlessly into another world. Segueing seamlessly, "Christ, Scientist" sounds as if Of Montreal and Can had a baby, with high, pretty, layered vocals floating over a skittery drum track and a loop of what might be best described as an eraser rubbing back and forth on a piece of paper. Rounding out the set is "Desert Dreams," a slow burner with clanging, clattering percussion reminiscent of the cacophonous noise of "Joy" off of P.J. Harvey's Is This Desire? And it does indeed come off as a desert dream, perhaps an alternate soundtrack to Westworld, the futuristic Western with Yul Brynner as an evil cowboy, or something to play as you watch Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky" video with the sound off.
When I get a chance to talk with the band, I ask about the inspiration for their lyrics. "Usually it's something visual, and then fitting words together to aesthetically please," replies Johnson, before recanting with "total bullshit." His explanation showcases the duality of the Vampire Hands experience: foreboding, pervasive menace on one end of the spectrum, and a playful, don't-give-a-shit spirit on the other. While they make dark and disturbing music, they don't seem to take much of anything seriously.
"I just get high and fuck with other people's songs," says drummer Alex Rose when asked about the division of songwriting labor. When singer Chris Bierden complains that his "genius has been undermined on every album," it's not clear if he's been taking truth serum, or if he's just drunk.
Cuz It's a Beach Funeral doesn't sound like the band's proclaimed influences—Eno, Krautrock, the Beatles, Cows drummer Freddy Votel—though traces can be found on the fringes. To say that they resemble anyone else in particular would be false; they simply sound like the inimitable Vampire Hands. More than anything else, the record feels like night swimming in Crystal Lake, telling yourself that Jason can't get you as long as you stay in the still, black water.
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