The Wake – Perfumes and Fripperies

Posted: 20 October 2020 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , ,

Blaylox Records – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My ignorance of The Wake clearly blows every last one of my goth / post-punk credentials: where have I been all my life? Pitched as for being for fans of all of my favourite bands from my teen goth period – which I never really left – namely The Sisters of Mercy, Peter Murphy, The Mission UK, Tones on Tail, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, the band emerged in the so-called ‘second wave’ of goth appearing on myriad compilations and extensive touring with peers including Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails, The Wake secured their place in goth and roll history.

‘Everything’, the second single lifted from the new album – their first in a quarter of a century – features Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Wolfie providing additional guitar, which further bolsters the release’s heritage credentials.

Not that it needs it: it’s a solid album in its own right. ‘Daisy’ is a daringly bleak, low-tempo opener that may not be quite Reptile House EP barren, but is nevertheless a spectacularly dark, atmospheric trudge through oppressively dark terrain, and at nearly six minutes long, it’s hardly an easy entrance.

Things go very Sisters circa ’85 with ‘Marry Me’, and the guitar work is clearly heavily influenced by Wayne Hussey, as are the vocals: this is their reimagining of the Sisters’ ‘Garden of Delight’ demo and it’s taut and murky, and they’ve got that heavily-chorused / valve sound nailed, and it’s that circa ’85 / ’86 vibe that drifts like a creeping smog of dry ice from every corner of Perfumes and Fripperies, aided by a dense production. While the swirling guitars are most obviously the defining aspect of the sound, the bass is thick and boomy, to the extent that you don’t so much hear the basslines as feel them, and they fill out the sound without being able to specifically separate the bass. Said shuddering bass is welded in a tight 4/4 to the mechanised drum tracks, which are pitched relatively low but are relentless – precisely as they should be.

There’s inevitably an element of comparing the motifs with precursive signatures: the tunnel-like vocal reverb is a Sisters signature that’s become a trope that so many bands have tried to emulate, with varying degrees of success.

The aforementioned ‘Everything’ is a hypnotic mesh of shoegaze that draws together early Lorries and All About Eve’s ‘Phased’, and Troy Payne’s vocals are treated with a steely metallic edge that replicates Chris Reed’s sound. Elsewhere, if the drum sound and overall structure of ‘Emily Closer’ is a Sisters / Rosetta Stone / Suspiria lift, the atmosphere is more Curesque, which the title kind of implies is the aim, and ‘Big Empty’ is hollow, brittle, a blanks pace of flanged bass and claustrophobically intense reverb.

‘Figurine’ marks a lurch into Fields of the Nephilim, and with the bombastic layers of female backing vocals wafting over some icy synths and a bassline that’s pure Simon Gallup on the last track, ‘Rusted’, it seems like The Wake have got all the goth bases covered. On the one hand, I should be irritated, as these things perpetuate the sameness of goth bands that’s been a bugbear of mine for years, largely because it feels self-limiting, like a genre trapped in time. But when it’s this well executed and the songs and production are this strong… you just can’t knock it.

Perfumes and Fripperies isn’t a great title, but it is a great album.

AA

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