Anxiety. It’s under-rated, in the same way that Stalin is under-rated as a bastard. Thanks to that I’m on some drugs. The most wonderful drugs I’ve ever had, and that includes Calpol – surely the tastiest thing to never contain chocolate or garlic. Unfortunately, these magnificent pharmaceutical treats have their downsides. I’m numbed. I can’t feel as much as I used to. I miss my heart skipping a beat when Bob breaks into ‘Lay Lady Lay’. This makes music reviewing a bit hard going. (You may have noticed I’m a bit less prolific than usual.) Every now and then though, something wakes me up. Lions Are Smarter Than I Am are unsigned. I only know about them because I know the drummer, and not very well. Their EP slash LP ‘Pop Idle’ has gently prodded me with the consciousness stick. Starting with what sounds like a pair of nuclear submarines in simultaneous orgasm, the opener ‘Twenty One, Thirty One!’ begins gently before thudding into what is, at the moment, a rarity: a post-rock song with singable lyrics (even if they have to be deciphered from the android speaking them in monotone). From this, it’s clear to see that Lions Are Smarter Than I Am are proudly sitting in the category of “bands that can write a catchy chorus, but just don’t want to”. ‘No Plane’ is a shuffling lullaby with gentle one-two-three plucks and the same muffled robotic voice (think Darth Vader without the deep tones and asthma), but the voice in this case sounds far more human, opening with that most humbling requests of “Say everything’s alright…”. Turning the volume up several notches in the middle, ‘No Plane’ is as tender as it is majestic and is the clear highlight of the record. The next number ‘Monkey Grinder’ dispels any suspicion you may have that this is “just another” post-rock band. ‘Monkey Grinder’ features an organ cast amongst mud-slides of guitars which stands as one the most un-pigeonhole-able things I’ve heard all year. It sounds halfway between Nick Cave’s gothier moments and Arcade Fire’s ‘Laika’ sans-accordion. ‘Broken Arm’ closes proceedings on a confusing note: apparently some woman is going to break someone else’s arm, which clearly causes someone distress. It sounds a bit like the rich man’s soundtrack to a particularly eerie-cum-frenetic game of Halo (not that I play Halo, I’ve had stomach ulcers more enjoyable). Even so, ‘Broken Arm’ is a clear weakness, since it, for the first time, gives into being generic with its “Look! I’m being suspenseful!” riffs and its out of nowhere murmurs and yells.
Despite a relatively duff last track, ‘Pop Idle’ is largely a winner. It’s been one of the few things that has shaken me awake from anti-anxiety zombieland. First time I heard it, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but I knew I wanted to hear it again, and the more I played it the better it sounded. These guys are one to watch, once they refine what they’re best at. Even if you hate it, you’ve got nothing to lose, since they’re making it available for free, so you’ve got no excuse not to check it out if you’re a fan of moody-mathy-post-rock.