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I was watching a documentary about film director Terry Gilliam this week and something struck me. There are two kinds of weird; Brazil weird and Fisher King weird. Brazil is a movie that never tries to make any sense. Everyone talks about it being ‘influential’, but that’s really code for ‘complete nonsense’. It’s a movie that you see once, because you want to say you saw it. But deep down, you know you’ll never see it again. Fisher King, on the other hand, is a different kind of weird. The same artist applied his unique vision to a well-known, palatable format. So instead of the same humdrum romantic comedy garbage we’ve all seen too many times, you have a truly watchable and creative film. Sure it doesn’t get all of the namedropping that Brazil does, but you are a lot more likely to watch it for fun. I had to explain all of that to lead off the following sentence.
England’s Evans the Death is Fisher King weird.
Named after the undertaker in Dylan Thomas‘ ‘Under Milk Wood,’ Evans the Death’s 2012 self-titled debut album saw critical acclaim from Q, Uncut and Artrocker. After a change in line-up following the release, brothers Dan and Olly Moss and singer Katherine Whitaker regrouped with Leeds drummer James Burkitt (The ABC Club) for the recording of their follow-up Expect Delays. This follow-up, recorded again with producer Rory Atwell (Palma Violets, Veronica Falls), is out via Fortuna POP! in Europe and Slumberland Records stateside.
“…being in London and feeling hopeless and a bit lost. Not having any money, relationships falling apart, things just not connecting or going anywhere and getting absolutely wasted all the time.”
According to the band, Expect Delays was heavily influenced by the meager existence they’ve been living over the last several years. That belies how much fun this record is. Evans the Death is all over the place and seem to delight in dragging you along with them. You can hear elements of Shoegaze (“Terrified”), Honky-Tonk Country (“Intrinsic Grey”), Surf Rock (“Sledgehammer”), Pretenders-esque New Wave (one of my personal favorites “Bad Year”), Jangle Pop (“Just 60,000 More Days ‘til I Die”), Noise Rock (“Enabler”), European Folk (“Just 60,000 More Days ‘til I Die”), and Mazzy Star Dream Pop (“Waste of Sunshine”). That is a lot going on for one record and could easily have turned into one giant mess. But, Expect Delays is held together by a fine sheen of fuzz and feedback combined with extremely tight arrangements. Whether this credit should lie more with producer Atwell or the band, I don’t know.
What I do know is that there is no way to overstate how important Whitaker’s voice is to this band. A lot of times it can be hard to follow a group into too many genre explorations. They are bound to find something you’ve heard a million times before. Personally, I could go the rest of my life without hearing another dispassionate female vocal from a band trying their hardest pay homage to 90’s Shoegaze. Whitaker avoids that very pitfall through sheer force of will. Her vocal remains endearing regardless of what genre the band is toying with and stands out as a clear advantage for Evans the Death.
Going back to the original Fisher King analogy, with all of those influences and idiosyncrasies floating around, Expect Delays is still a pop album at its heart. These are tracks that will make you want to move your ass and almost nothing here pushes past the magical three minute mark. It is that accessibility that ties Evans the Death to other great ‘weird’ bands like 10cc, XTC, Talking Heads and The The who utilized mainstream pop sensibilities to showcase their own signature artistic voices. That same sensibility makes Expect Delays the kind of album that keeps a listener coming back to soak it up over and over again. Simply shirking the mainstream isn’t enough to make an album truly great. It has to be challenging and accessible. Evans the Death has done that, which is why I believe that Expect Delays is pound-for-pound the best album made so far in 2015.
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