By Robbie Beale
The release of Vandalism, the debut EP from the rising stars of the Manchester scene, The Vandalis, will be difficult to miss for those keeping an eye on the local scene.
Having honed their craft on the Manchester circuit, local raconteurs The Vandalis (you might spot their posters and graffiti around Fallowfield) have come together to release 4 of their best tracks so far. Formed less than a year ago, the band’s rise has been an exciting one to watch and follow, and this EP will be the culmination of 2 semester’s worth of huge gigs, pulling in punters from across the university and beyond.
Prolific is the one word that springs to mind when anyone mentions The Vandalis. At the band’s core is Matt Loretti, the singer/songwriter/guitarist/businessman/radio DJ who fronts the band. He has wasted no time in establishing the band as the epicentre of the Fallowfield bands night scene, having even started his own radio show, ‘The Vandalis Presents’, giving a voice to local music.
Asked what the story behind the EP is, he said, “through the bustle of busy city life, Vandalism explores the way society butchers itself through violence, politics, prejudice and terror”. This EP leads the listener on a journey from “the undercurrent of a dark and twisted force” in the forms of crime and abuse, before turning inwardly toward feelings of depression, and finally those of loss and anguish.
The first of four tracks on the EP is the bluesy, harmonica driven, aural assault ‘Break You’. Centred around themes of prostitution and drug use, it brings to the fore Loretti’s infectious and punchy vocals, with a killer guitar performance from George Wherry. The swaggering bridge provides the only room for a breather in this 2:37 rampage, which shows The Vandali’s blues rock side at its best, culminating in a cacophony of overdriven guitar lines and deranged laughter. This song really comes alive when seen in the flesh, as demonstrated at the Vandalis’ watershed set at Fuel Café Bar on the 7th of February. The full band brought even more energy to the song than the recording would suggest, which is no mean feat, and the bouncing of feet in the first-floor venue even had some staff worried the ceiling might fall through.
Second track ‘Satisfy The Old’ takes a more laid-back approach at first, still packed with swagger, before launching into a rage-filled chorus, critiquing a decade of Tory austerity. The drums hit hard here. The song could easily be finished after another cycle of verse and chorus, but it then takes a slower, heavier turn, moving into spooky, near-discordant territory, with excellent use of the harmonica again. Fear-inducing vocals then round out this section, before the song ends on one last chorus.
‘Baby Let Me Die’ is perhaps one of the weaker of the 4 songs, but in the context of the EP it represents a necessary shift towards a cleaner, more downtempo, second half. Indeed, it provides much needed respite from the incredible energy of the first two tracks. Tackling issues of depression and suicide, the song centres around a jaunty guitar line which juxtaposes against the lyrics of the song well.
The closer ‘My Cologne’ perfectly fills its role. A final outpouring of all the emotion left in the band provides closure to what Loretti describes as ‘an ode to the façade of everyday life in Manchester’, in which the true meaning ‘can only be understood if you listen to the EP as if it were a book or short story’. Fittingly, ‘My Cologne’ is the culmination of all the themes presented within the EP. Amongst its glassy guitars and luscious bass parts lies a deep anguish; a feeling that maybe love ‘could have survived if it wasn’t for the suffocating experience of big city living’. Drawn back for an encore by the appreciative crowd, the band launched into this final, soul-wrenching song to round out their set at Fuel Café Bar. Despite a slightly out of place harmonica, this song cemented The Vandalis as the best act of the night, concluding an excellent and packed-out set.
Throughout, this EP sets the terms. The music pulls you this way and that at will, dragging you from chorus to verse and back again before you’ve had time to realise which way is up. The songs, ‘Satisfy The Old’ and ‘My Cologne’ in particular, are masterfully written, never failing to take you with them through each twist and turn. The Vandalis have managed to pack an incredible variety of themes and genres into 4 songs. No second feels wasted, and the EP leaves me excited to see what direction they continue to take their music.
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