self released, 2011, DD album, 40m 55s
Lyrics slam meanings across one another in collisions of imagery that are sometimes poetic and profound, but always imbued with acid sarcasm and sour humour. Galapagos Now! are not all about the words however: the arrangements of their songs take on the shapes of their meanings, borrowing vocabulary from garage rock, jazz, folk and other sources. There is an unhinged quality to proceedings, and an anarchic unpredictability that constantly rewards the attentive listener (while probably confusing the hell out of the inattentive).
The Beards Of London is not an album filled with stylistic innovations, or arty, conceptually clever approaches to music making; nor is it ‘difficult’ to listen to, or filled with dissonances and complex musical devices. It uses a set of well worn sounds, timbres, compositional approaches and stylistic conventions: it is Galapagos Now!’s very own set, however, combined in a way that does not bear comparison with many other acts that I can think of (and the ones I can are so obscure that it’s not worth mentioning them here).
‘Sandman’s Got Nothing On Me’ sounds like Hunky Dory era David Bowie, but that’s obviously a deliberate reference, since nothing else on the album does. Frank Zappa in his more dementedly comedic moods is one good comparison, with his tendency to grab stylistic elements from unexpected places, and his off the wall lyrics, but this doesn’t sound like Zappa. For one thing, Zappa’s music tends to be technically complex and aurally challenging even when he’s ripping the piss out of a mainstream style, and Galapagos Now! are pretty rootsy on the whole,
No, this is a band that spends its creative capital elsewhere: they seem like a band that paid their dues, got their chops and their sound together, and then called shenanigans on the whole ridiculous business of trying to convince the world that they sounded better, or had more indie cool value than all the other rootsy, garagey independent rock bands crowding the ether. What they do is, rather than thinking about how their stuff is meant to sound, they take the vocabulary they’ve absorbed, and do what the hell they want with it.
And what they want to do with it, is to be unceasingly creative: this music is not anally retentive, just so and rigidly arranged, yet there is nothing in it that has been thoughtlessly thrown in, as an unexamined stylistic gesture. Everything that is in the mix is there because these chefs of sound wanted its flavour, and knew how it would interact with all the other tastes in the pot. At every turn these songs are funny, thought provoking, musically satisfying and surprising, and they are performed with a well crafted sound and a solid, relaxed groove.
Not everyone will like The Beards Of London: many people are uncomfortable with music that doesn’t take itself seriously, perhaps because it makes it obvious that they take themselves a little too seriously. However self-deprecating, and laugh-out-loud funny they are, however, Galapagos Now! are not a comedy band, and this is not an album of novelty songs. Just the opposite, in fact: rather than the cheap shots of generically ‘indie’ music, this music is the product of a coherent artistic strategy, and for all that it is extremely entertaining, is far more serious. While the internet is flooded with cookie cutter hipster music, that is about as ‘indie’ as Beyonce, here is a band of truly independent mind, and a totally individual sound.