“Rascalize” By The Rascals
There will of course, be many who will approach “Rascalize” with no small amount of anticipation after becoming enraptured with the majestic stylised strutting of Alex Turner and Miles Kane’s side project The Last Shadow Puppets. Their album “The Age Of The Understatement” has been the surprise hit of the year with its sophisticated take on George Formby playing at James Bond fused with The Walker Brothers on a spaghetti western set. It also has the added bonus of conveniently building a head of steam for the lesser-known half of The Last Shadow Puppets, Miles Kane and his band, The Rascals. Surely Arctic Monkey Turner’s chief alchemist will provide more evidence that there’s a new songwriting tour de force in town. So let this review serve as a warning, “Rascalize’s” greatest achievement is the fact that it aptly demonstrates just how good Alex Turner is.
So where do the problems lie? Well, even the title “Rascalize” is pompously uninspired; as if it’s a natural extension of the band’s (not very) well established “brand.” So move over Ant n’ Dec and Dame Vera Lynn, as the Rascals appear to be labouring under the delusion that their “brand” already occupies a very special place deep within the psyche of the Great British public. Naturally their scampish behaviour is greeted with an indulgent, exasperated shake of the head and a wry smile, as we as a nation, tousle their hair and say “go on be off with you, you young scamps. The Rascals eh? What do you do with’em? ..Tsk ! ” Truth is, the album title combined with the cover artwork, whilst craving to be atmospheric, hip and urbane, sadly it only conjures up images of skinny, cocky, oak-headed scousers, thieving hub caps, throwing their chips at pensioners and generally behaving in an anti-social manner. To be succinct, more moronic than Byronic.
The album is a typically bland “Merseyside- by- numbers” affair, a troublesome state which seems to afflict an alarming number of bands from the area, which inevitabley, sees them incarcerated in some sort of hellish Merseybeat time warp. (Yes the album contains that coma-inducing trademark “twanging Mersey -beat guitar sound” a-plenty.) It even, on occasion, conspires to sjot in your ear bands like The Icicle Works seem less boring than say, Alan Shearer deciding what footwear to use before creosoting his fence…on a Tuesday…. Possibly duller than Gary Lineker playing a sports themed edition of Scrabulous on-line with Birmingham’s very own version of Quasimodo, Adrian Chiles, or even the fatuous Ray Stubbs, showing colleagues a photo albums worth of snaps, detailing the progress of his newly erected conservatory ….. “See That? That’s got a two-inch hardwood surround that has….completely impervious….”
Songs such as “Freakbeat Phantom” start off promisingly, but lose their way and wander off aimlessly like a late-night drunk who ends up p*ssing all over his neighbour’s prize petunias, “People Watching” huffs, puffs and gets utterly nowhere whilst managing to say absolutely nothing, were as “How Do I End This” would surely have been rejected by Gerry And The Pacemakers for being a little “too pedestrian and conservative.” “Bond Girl” is quite, quite dreadful, I had to listen to this repeatedly in order to try and form the words that would best convey its sheer awfulness, I then realised such words do not yet exist in the English language, and therefore the only way I can sum it up, is thus, “imagine a lobotomised version of The Zutons.” What rankles most, is not Kane’s vocals, which on the whole, save the album from disaster, but the needless overproduction, (which may have been used as a tool to mask the thinness of the material on hand) and the show-off guitar effects which bring to mind Hank Marvin, if he’d have gone through an “experimental drug phase.” They twang, they wah-wah, they judder they whine and within minutes become a major irritant, if the inmates of Guantanamo Bay were streamed this on a regular basis, they would surely confess to absolutely anything !
Of course my harshness may be due to the fact that I expected so much more, and to be fair it’s not all tedium “I’ll Give You Sympathy” is a wonderful affair, all attitude and grinding guitars which more than hints at past Shadow Puppet glories. You could actually imagine, Dame Shirley Bassey giving her all to this number and belting out a real showstopper. “Out Of Dreams” should maybe, in context of the album, have been called “Out Of Ideas” but is actually, a decent enough tune and “Does Your Husband Know That You’re On The Run” whilst boasting a title that sounds like some sort of bizarre, UK Comedy Film Noir, featuring Robin Askquith and Sid James, clatters along with a small smattering of dignity.
Sadly the lingering impression one is left with, is one of bitter disappointment, at times the album conveys all the charm, eloquence and grace of a scally from Seacombe supping special brew whilst demanding a morning after pill at the Brook Advisory Clinic. In a nutshell, it’s quite a disheartening affair, rather like a toddler throwing an enormous tantrum; it makes a lot of noise, it expends a lot of energy, but ultimately achieves very little, other than ending up sullenly sitting on the naughty step with a smacked bottom.
If Merseyside is looking for new heroes maybe new kids on the block, The Grants will step up to the plate because on this evidence it won’t be The Rascals. Where as The Last Shadow Puppets served up a feast, the Rascals have provided thinly strained gruel, which will only provide sustenance for those who surrounded themselves in a miasma of Merseybeat nostalgia and sub Zutons bombast. If I were Miles I’d keep a tight hold of Alex Turner’s coattails a while yet…sometimes reflected glory is better than no glory….for now..
3.5 Alex Turners out of 10
3.5 Alex Turners out of 10
“I’ll Give You Sympathy” By The Rascals (live)