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Album Review
Opposite Sex

Opposite Sex
by Opposite Sex

Fishrider Records

Review Date
29th February 2012
Reviewed by
Justin Paul

After much grappling with Opposite Sex, I have finally arrived at a metaphor: this album is an eel. It is muscular, elusive and has nasty inward-facing teeth that clamp and don’t let go. Who knows, it may even taste good jellied. But all anyone really needs to know is that Opposite Sex is weird and fantastic.

All manner of ghosts haunt the music of Opposite Sex. Lucy Hunter’s thin voice shares the frailty of Charlotte Gainsbourg or various Scandi-noir chanteuses. Then there are hints of Children’s Hour and other early Flying Nun acts (‘Got to Eat’ and ‘Mary Lu’), punkpop (‘Hamish and Chips’), rockabilly in ‘Panther Fight’ and ‘The Bones of Dr. White’ and echoes of Pixies, The Breeders, Violent Femmes and, more recently, the mania of Mint Chicks, Joe Gideon and The Shark and the surfy shimmer of The Drums and Best Coast… It is enormous fun trying to trace the influences of Opposite Sex, and fans of any one of these bands will find something to love on this album. Only one thing is certain: they have no right to be able to combine such strong flavours on their debut and make it palatable. The sweet fire of chili and chocolate, anyone?

Opposite Sex is a rollicking ride, but be prepared, much of it is downright odd. The word ‘ramshackle’ has been used to describe the band’s sound in other reviews and it is apt: supposedly recorded in a mere eight hours, it often sounds as if the band is racing the clock, as if the studio is about to collapse on their heads. Elsewhere, they sound as if they have been locked up and are in need of a good feed. There are characters who speak French to rats, play trombone to blokes named Hamish, worry about the outcome of a panther vs. rabbit fight and another who has “the eyeballs of an eagle and a nose like a beagle.” A Taika Waititi film of the album is due for release in 2013.

Through the apparent madness, however, there is no shortage of highlights. Opener ‘La Rat’ is a jaunty number that should gain plenty of air-time on alternative radio. ‘Sea Shanty’ plunges and resurfaces like the song’s twinkling merman. Album centrepiece, ‘Master/Slave’ would sound wonderful in a carnival’s Ghost Train: there would be some serious pant-shitting going on when drummer, Tim Player, unleashes his lupine howl out of the darkness. Music for carnies then, but not necessarily by carnies… although one suspects guitarist, Fergus Taylor, might be wielding an extra digit or two, such is the dexterity of his playing. Hunter’s piano, trumpet and low-slung bass bubble up and beguile the listener, but make no mistake, Taylor is the show-stopper here – cue the solo on ‘The Bones of Dr. White’. Those who bemoan the death of ‘real music played by real musicians’, seemingly murdered by mumbling bedroom knob-twiddlers would do well to grab a copy of Opposite Sex.

Which is precisely what Marc Riley, one of BBC Radio’s taste makers, would appear to have done. While Opposite Sex will run the risk of being dismissed as a whimsical oddity, Riley has been raving that this will be one of his top five albums of the year. While I wouldn’t go that far this early - the album would have lost none of its charm if ‘Dada Creep’ and ‘Listen’ had been cut, for example - Opposite Sex is one of the most infectious local debuts of recent years.


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