Evans The Death Vanilla on LP
London five-piece Evans the Death return with Vanilla, their most ambitious and experimental album to date, eschewing the more traditional pop structures and hooks of their first two albums, 2012's self-titled debut and 2015's critically acclaimed Expect Delays. While Expect Delays was a step towards something more interesting, more collaborative, experimental and abrasive - a bleak, introspective kind of album that still retained a pop sensibility - Vanilla sees the band veer in an ever more adventurous direction: more aggressive, extroverted and raw.
Named after the undertaker in Dylan Thomas' radio play, Under Milk Wood, the band was formed by brothers Dan and Olly Moss after meeting singer Katherine Whitaker at a Let's Wrestle show. After numerous line-ups, the band is now completed by James Burkitt on drums and Daniel Raphael on bass. The new album was recorded at Lightship95 in London with producer Rory Attwell, who worked on both of their previous records. Highly variegated in style and mood, brimming with extreme contrasts, from noisy to funky to melodic, energetic to dejected, full of chaos and restlessness, the album was the result of a carefully planned recording strategy.
The songs on Vanilla veer wildly in style, lending a real energy and vitality to the flow of the album. There's the psychedelic snarl of "Haunted Wheelchair" built around dissonant, ominous, jazz-like chords, which build a sense of dread and paranoia but also a strange excitement. There's also the no-wave party vibe of "Suitcase Jimmy," a semi-improvised portrait of a fictional down-at-heel actor built around a Wilko Johnson-ish guitar part. "Hey! Buddy" is an "unintentionally mean-spirited" askew pop tune from the point of view of a cloying and over-zealous fan of the band. While the wartime dancehall of "Cable St. Blues" is an odd duet between two parts of the psyche.
Newest member Daniel Raphael's present to the band, "Hot Sauce" is led by a groovy, capacious bassline, while Olly's "Armchair Theatre," the quietest, prettiest song on the record, starts out like a soft rock classic and turns in to a gorgeously mournful song. And "Welcome to Usk" draws on Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks and parts of Vivian Kubrick's score for Full Metal Jacket, with a banging disco section thrown in for good measure.
A dark, howling, ragged storm of an album, impossible to categorize, Vanilla is anything but – a far cry from the bland, unimaginative music that pervades the airwaves. It is a brittle, brilliant new chapter in the story of a band who never fail to surprise.