OK yeah, that name is weird, let’s move on together, shall we? Alpha Male Tea Party are another stroke in the fast expanding painting that is the “bright” math-rock community, once spearheaded by acts like Adebisi Shank and And So I Watch You From Afar and now containing as diverse acts as VASA or MNHM. The joining thread seems to be first a musical and, second, a geographical one. As far as the music goes, one can expect major chords played over energetic beats, creating frantic excursions into disjointedly optimistic riffs and an overall sensation of…satisfied loss? Let’s go with that. Geographically, the main output in this field seems to erupt from the British Isles, Perfidious Albion, or however else you’d like to call that strange, strange group of disparate places.
In keeping with both of these facts, Health is a furious roundhouse kick in the solar plexus delivered straight from the hip of the United Kingdom and one with decidedly more “spin” and panache than can be found in plenty of this already slightly calcified sub-genre. Health‘s secret formula lies in the power of suspension, zenith, and release (I’m in an oddly jovial mood today, so please bear with my metaphors). By which, what do I mean? Only this: listen closely to the album’s opener, “Have You Ever Seen Milk?”, especially to its outro, and listen how bass, guitar, and drums all conspire to leave you hanging between notes. The decidedly mathrock formula is utilized to arrange this; the chords are probably straight-forward enough in and of themselves but they’re strung together in a markedly off-kilter way, leaving your grasping for firm ground even as your stomach responds to the musical ideas.
That’s pretty much the entire album in a nutshell. The band themselves describe their music as a “(fucking) loud instrumental band” and they’re not wrong. Like the aforementioned MNHM, the charm of Health beyond the basic formula is how much Alpha Male Tea Party seem intent to stick with it while still gently introducing variations on the theme. Check out the quite incredible “Carpet Diem” (have I mentioned that the track title game on this album is amazingly strong?); from its middle point onward, a more dream-y vibe is introduced, expertly propped up by the clever use of the hi-hat and the innately effective groove it produces. All of which comes crashing down at the end of the track. The formula, which is exhibited more thoroughly as the track beings, is maintained; even these different passages are distinctively of the place, the time, and the genre of the album but they’re also their own, transmogrified with fresh ideas.
This then, this insistence on sticking to their guns while giving ground where it matters the most, is what makes Health stand up above the crowd of releases we’ve recently seen from this genre/location. It hangs on to the fun and groove oriented composition that informs its base while expressing enough interesting diversions from it to keep us hooked. Lastly, as I review more and more albums and, thus, lose more and more faith in words and their power to communicate music and emotion, let me end this review on a note I’ve used several times in the past few months. All of the above aside, Health is just fucking fun. It kicks and it kicks and it just keeps kicking and you’ve got no choice but to headbang along. And that’s great.
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Health releases on the 23rd of June and you can pre-order it right here. Those t-shirts are also pretty sick.