Snog – Last of the Great Romantics

 Snog - <i> Last of the Great Romantics

CD, Hymen Records, 2010
www.myspace.com/snogtheband

You could never accuse David Thrussel of following the herd. Staunchly anti-capitalist, anti-music industry, and more than willing to indulge his apparent love of god-knows-how-many different genres of music and also a wickedly droll sense of humour on every release he can, he has returned under his long-running Snog moniker for ‘their’ first album in three years or so.
Apparently “recorded entirely in analogue facilities using a vast collection of vintage studio equipment”, and featuring some pretty unexpected guests (The City of Prague Philharmonic Choir, for one), there is no doubting that this album takes some getting used to, even by Snog standards.
For those of you looking for another “Cliche”, or even “Late Twentieth Century Boy”, look away now, as it appears that there is no interest in revisiting that past. The past being mined here is a somewhat less electronic, more, um, romantic past. Whether this is a deep feeling of romanticism, or just another of those deeply tongue-in-cheek pastiches, it’s difficult to tell, but is easy to tell is that the first two tracks drift by without really anything to say about them. Well, other than that Thrussel’s deep, rich vocal is present and correct, but the bleeps and thunder of the drums is set well back behind him in the mix.
“Wargasm”, some ten minutes and three songs into the album, brings us somewhere near familiar ground. A viciously satirical take on the “pornography” of war footage, it’s the one truly brilliant moment on the album, with a glittering, ultra-bright explosion of a chorus accompanied by thundering drums and synths that shimmer all over.
That glimpse of the old Snog, though, is snatched away quickly, as “Sleepwalk” trundles along (even if it’s impressively assisted by the aforementioned choir), while the metallic backing of “Big Black Hole” is matched by a near-guttural growl from Thrussell, and that choir again – but yet again the recording doesn’t do a track with such potential justice. It feels rather thin unless listened to really loud, although the whole thing is nearly redeemed entirely by the staggering choral close of the track, that is swiftly sucked into a cleverly distorted finish, clearly mimicing a black hole.
“This World (Done Me Wrong)” is one ballad too many at this point in the album, being not a lot different from the ballads before it, but it’s “Cosmic Caveman” that gives away the thrust of the album as a whole – that really, Thrussel doesn’t give too much time to the modern world, perhaps despairing at the constant human need to have the next shiny thing in their hand rather than actually advancing the human race, and the world around us, in other ways.
Indeed, by this point, it becomes clear that perhaps I’ve been listening too much to the music, and not enough to the lyrics. This is a really dark album, even by Thrussel’s standards. When you look back at the lyrics in the booklet, it’s *all* full of despair and distaste, a hope perhaps that some vengeful god might come down and sweep all of this world away (hello, “The Fires”), or just get him away from a world he clearly has no time for (hello, “The Prisoner Song”).
So what to make of this? Lyrically this album, despite the pervading darkness, is full of acid wit and some marvellous observations on modern life, but musically it feels tired, and aside from the odd exception, it’s nothing too spectacular. But then, even Snog on a musical off-day is a damned sight more interesting and relevant than many other bands. And, of course, who knows that David Thrussel might choose to do next?

[6.5/10]

— Adam Williams