by Ryan Doyle Elward
Bratty business ensues throughout Ratworld, beckoning entrance into their gritty, glimmering corner of the Kingdom. As the first full length release from Menace Beach, this is shoegaze pop on spiked punch. Almost every track could be split into two distinct stylistic approaches that qualify for these two genres. Perhaps definable as infectious and accessible in simple terms, the idea of duality, however, might serve as a more fittingly employed description. For every saccharin duet type, therein follows a heavier, less domesticated number revealing layers of frankly unexpected yet welcomed complexities. Peeling said layers reveals more than simply the name of the group might have been borrowed from the ‘90s, and that other elements too, were transported. Exemplified in “Tastes Like Medicine,” deep, nearly monotone, croaking vocals akin to that heard from Dinosaur Jr. Out of phase, pitch modulating organ melodies hang around in “Dig it Up,” and “Blue Eye” sets a scene of a couple’s dance during Prom night.
Splattered with wandering, airy vocals and waves of distortion, plenty similar to the ever popular sun drenched, cloying acts that have assaulted this genre in recent years, Menace Beach defies, stepping coolly into a pool of greater depth. Ratworld represents a separation from the crowd in ways that round off the raw, rough edges without sacrificing an energetic presence.
Amidst the lyrical content of the album, while not necessarily linear or connected, a spunky, mostly positive, self deprecating but self actualizing collection of stories are available for the taking. If Ratworld is at all resembling a daydream, in place of a sun bathed, flower flecked meadow would be a concrete jungle, lawless and subject to the nuttiness of it’s creators. One that might parallel the bizarre realm that is the original gameplay version of Menace Beach, complete with a demonic, menacing villain and the pursuit to save the lovable heroine.
Consistently a twosome, Menace Beach hosts a rotary of additional musicians forming the conglomerate group, among whom resident member of Hookworms, Matthew Johnson is a more stationary figure. Hear MJ most recognizably in “Pick Out the Pieces” exhibiting his signature expansive sound, swollen and murky with high, shrill vocals positioned in the far rear.
Given that several of the meaty bits of the album are actually previously released work, the pieces are reconstituted into an autonomous, detached effort, exclusive and separate now in regard to origin. In fact, this rambunctious and rascally album communicates a far less somber atmosphere than say, Lowtalker EP. Though, make no mistake, they’ve earned their spot at the grown up table, in the form of blooming progression, and a willingness to experiment, all while retaining that youthful sheen.