REVIEWED: Boss Keloid - ‘Family The Smiling Thrush’
The phrase “life-affirming” is tossed out all too rarely these days, but Boss Keloid can comfortably claim this appellation. A band whose ballsy swagger was clear from the outset when they took as their name a song by the legendary Iron Monkey. It’s no exaggeration to say these Wiganites are ready to take the mantle of being as highly influential and well-regarded as those simian sluggers. It might be hyperbole, but a quick listen to their discography, morphed from Corrosion of Conformity-esque hardcore in their first couple of albums to riffing-on-Down for the immense ‘Herb Your Enthusiasm’. All were cheerfully cantankerous, full-throated roars of records. But it was ‘Melted On The Inch’ in 2018 that really put their name on the map. It felt like planets converging in conjuration, a step into unknown territory with a seismic footprint. It was heavy and fuzzy still, yes, but there was something else too. One taste of the psychedelic keyboard washes along with their latent taste for the proggy had the metal world in raptures, as well as anything else they fancied stirring into the mix. It was a damn near perfect record. Things couldn’t get much better, right?
Wrong, they can. Once again hyperbole can be dispensed with for ‘Family The Smiling Thrush’ - it really is that good. The inkling this might be something out of the ordinary was confirmed when in the build-up to release, a playlist by drummer Ste was dropped that didn’t contain a single doom or sludge track on it, but a curious mix spanning prog like Rush and Alan Parsons Project, to Prince, to Chakha Khan and other soul legends. While we’re on the subject, his drumming is astonishing: expressive, emotional and technical. Once again, you have to look outside the metal world for comparison; this echoes Brian Viglione’s style of storytelling on the stool for Dresden Dolls. But singling out the technical aptitude of any one member is missing the point of ‘Family The Smiling Thrush’. Every beat, every strum, every roar, is there for the benefit of the song. Opening ‘Orang of Noyn’ is a herald of the glories to come, a well worked mid-tempo of chords that flow like thick delicious honey into the first single ‘Gentle Clovis’. To call it “driving” is like saying Lewis Hamilton can handle a fast car. Alex Hurst’s lion-lunged vocals are at the forefront here, equally at home with the more benevolent tone that Boss Keloid is striking these days. His roars are seasoned with the salt of the earth lyrics, focused on the confidence of the self, and a call to arms for self-belief. ‘Hats The Mandrill’ is a piledriving tune, distilling grunge at its very heaviest; imagine Soundgarden with deeper furrows. “YOUR VOICE CAN ELEVATE YOUR MIND!” Alex belts, before the tempo drops to a malevolent wind-up ready to propel a charge that could crash through fortress walls as Alex drops to a comparative whisper, then lets loose with “OPEN UP MOUTH AND LET THE WISDOM OUT!/SHARE YOUR OWN OPINION IF YOU’RE EVER IN DOUBT!” the relief of a summer storm. And if anyone writes a song that makes you straighten your back, set your shoulders and sing at the top of your lungs while a tear runs from the corner of one eye like ‘Smiling Thrush’...actually, they won’t.
Boss Keloid have got this all album of the year lark all sewn up, but they complete the job with the heaviest breakdown of ‘Cecil Succulent’ being swampy and sludgy, but still effortlessly surfacing for a clean break before delving back once again into the mire of misshapen riffs. ‘Grendle’ is in a similar vein, full of odd little fills that would fuck up the average media player visualiser. It’s left to ‘Flatt Controller’ to close the album out, and to be honest, no song could do the job to an album that should go on and on and on. It does it on the backbone of cascading psychedelic grunge riffs and a fade out, perhaps symbolising that this is very much unfinished business.
This is a record that makes no concession to fashion or zeitgeist or trends; like its lyrical subject matter, it stands tall and proud in its own identity. A record that pulls in influences from all over, and ends up showing just how cohesive and inspirational heavy music can be.
'Family the Smiling Thrush' is out now via Ripple Music