Playing their first shows in Glasgow in 2015 during a summer that never threatened to show up, Vital Idles' origins are closely tied with a tireless underground culture, a culture that informs the band's refusal to take it easy. Matthew Walkerdine, Nick Lynch, and Andy Monaghan are responsible for Glasgow DIY publishing institution Good Press while guitarist Ruari MacLean's pedigree stretches back to breakneck-indie-pop group Golden Grrrls and the Rose McDowall band. Following two self-released demos (2015) and a sold-out debut 7" (2016), Vital Idles arrive on Upset The Rhythm with Left Hand, a bare manifesto layered with meaning and non-meaning.
Vital Idles have stripped away all extraneous ornamentation to sculpt an incredibly life-like, vibrant pop music completely détourned and re-thought. For a conglomerate of art outsiders and aesthetes, Vital Idles are primitive, whimsically brutal. Sculpting a skeleton from a body already lean, there's a thrilling minimalism that runs through every beat and strum, a sparseness that feeds Jessica Higgins's surreal, oblique vocal delivery all the nourishment it needs. Left Hand crackles with a raw, punk approach to writing warped pop songs that don't just talk of disorder but often actively demonstrate it. Higgins manages to create dialogues that she narrates both parts of, dada-ist songs that seem obfuscated by layers of meaning that, when taken on their own terms as evocative mini-worlds, reveal themselves to be pieces that have an internal melancholy and logic.
Like Gertrude Stein growing up on Dunedin pop groups, peel away the deliberate awkwardness and Left Hand reveals itself to be a book of complex, literary short stories at pleasing odds with the wired, no-frills melodic thud MacLean, Lynch, and Walkerdine serve. At times a perilous journey into the unknown and at others an immensely enjoyable foray into form deconstruction, lyricist Higgins repeatedly builds narratives out of mis-hearings, peons to doing things wrong, sideways-glances at conventional narrative. The delivery tightrope-walks between deadpan epithets and a Smiths-ian pop singing which gives many of the lyrics bite, pathos, and a surprising amount of surrealistic positivity. 180 gram vinyl pressing with poster and download code.