From the off, Vuvuvultures don’t make it easy. Fixating on a band’s name is a potentially brain-melting exercise, but it’s difficult to move past the London quartet’s rhythmic sobriquet. Most band names are ridiculous anyway, right? The Killers, Nine Inch Nails, Kings of Leon. Are these especially strong? You hear the music before you contemplate the moniker. They roll off the tongue because the chorus hits first. Vuvuvultures may not yet enjoy such luxury, but you get the sense that they’re happy to challenge anyone who might dismiss them sound unheard.
Or sight unseen. In Harmony Boucher, they boast a terrifically unselfconscious frontwoman of androgynous and alien structure. Her voice is nothing you’ve not heard before, but it’s distinctive enough to ward off the standard roll-call of sound-alikes. Her riot grrrl-esque image may flirt with an aggressive Topshop campaign but there’s a beating heart beyond the vacant stare, one that goes a long way in turning question marks to exclamation points where debut album Push/Pull is concerned.
Perhaps sensing preconceptions, Vuvuvultures’ rather overwrought Tumblr bio notes, “The human mind loves to stereotype. Snap judgements, mentally sectioning stuff off, is the only way we manage to cope with the sensory onslaught that constantly bombards us.”. One hopes it’s not lost on them that this manifesto is set against a looping strobe effect. It continues; “But initial impressions can be oddly deceptive.”. Quite. It’s a statement quickly realised as Push/Pull unfurls.
Opener ‘Ctrl Alt Mexicans’ announces a band of swagger, all gleaming sturm und drang as gated synth meets garage guitar. It’s been described in some corners as the best track Muse never wrote, which is a nice way of saying 'stops just short of cribbing the bass line to "Time Is Running Out"'. In any case, comparisons to Bellamy and co are fairly misleading. ‘Ctrl Alt Mexicans’ may not reinvent the wheel but it’s very much its own beast, getting by on spiky charm and a vocal from Boucher that proves graceful even when towering. No real definable chorus on display; a relatively bold opening gambit sealed.
A shame, then, that the party is so suddenly spoiled. Obvious at best and cynical at worst, ‘Steel Bones’ is a painfully desperate box-ticking exercise, completely at odds with what comes before (and a good deal of after). A lead single with 'lead single' written all over it, it labours along before coughing up a chorus that wouldn’t feel out of place over a Skins trailer. Laced with studio sheen and devoid of heart, it’s a pretty mechanical affair, soon forgotten. The marching ‘Deaf Epic’ regains a touch of goodwill, its fairly basic layout benefitting from mild but intriguing digressions. Elsewhere, ‘Your Thoughts Are A Plague’ has nice verve, mixing invective and groove effectively but it’s ‘Whatever You Will’ that makes a more lasting, albeit frustrating impression. The build is spirited, vocals and soft guitar twinning sweetly until a generic join-the-dots chorus undoes accomplished work. Like its album, it’s full of little moments that threaten to connect before missing the mark.
If anything, the stitching on Push/Pull is much too tight, the tone rigid even when things veer off in wildly different directions. Some work – the hypnotic strains of ‘Tell No One’ making an immediate impression – and some don’t - ‘I'll Cut You’ sticking out as an absolute chore that loses you after the first derivative minute. Languid closer ‘Empurrar / Puxar’ catches Vuvuvultures under cover of darkness, playing with patience. It’s the first time they really flourish organically as a whole, a bright flash on a record that needs more of them. ‘Push/Pull’ sounds about right. It ebbs and flows and ebbs and ebbs and flows, confidently announcing a band of unconfident identity against a backdrop of pretty yet shallow colours. Every now and then, a burst, a sense of something more, ultimately hurt by a lack of ingenuity. Too much carrion, as it were.
6Dave Hanratty's Score