Let’s talk about the elephant in the room first. Claiming an album is inspired by Dada is interesting, but it’s also fucking risky. Duchamp and his buddies were having a crack at the way art is made and consumed in modern society. Sure, noble enough, but really, a urinal on its side in an art gallery is what it boils down to and I don’t know if I like the sneaking suspicion that Peabody are trying to piss in my ear by claiming this as inspiration. Loose Manifesto* sounds just as it’s named; a haphazard collection, schizophrenic in mood and tone, angry and flailing. But calling something *Loose Manifesto doesn’t excuse it from sounding less polished and somehow unfinished.
In fact, it might easily have passed for an album of lost B-sides, which is a quandary. Do you take this record on its own merits, or must we look at it in comparison to Peabody’s back catalogue? It steps away from their energetic, power pop tendencies, jumping instead from shoegaze to drone to glimmers of their early punkier days to thoughtful balladry. Which is why it sounds like stuff they might’ve discarded from previous records because it didn’t ?fit?. On its own as a record though, all these things that could grate on long time fans, might be appealing to a different audience.
‘This Empty Road’ is the first shock to the system. It’s frustrated, agonising and stripped, and quite powerful once you realise the lift and crash of a pop song waiting to happen isn’t hiding behind a slow first verse. ‘Black Narcissus’ is an assurance that this is still the same band, though there is more noise and less melody. ‘Deadhead’ starts with the shoe shuffling, calling out to the ghost of ripped jeans and oversized flanno of 1994. ‘No New Riffs’ is classic Peabody; self-deprecating and sarcastic, but in this context, it feels desperate. ?No new riffs/There’s nothing amazing/There’s nothing going on,? sings Bruno Brayovic, who later breaks down into ferocious wailing in ‘Choking’. Is this some sort of aurally expressed nervous breakdown?
‘Mirror Mirror’, ‘Take It From Me’ and ‘I’ve Been Waiting’ all swing back down tempo without offering any catharsis. ‘Already Won’ is a bottle of whiskey into this bender, grinding and droning, before the noisy ranting jam that is the title track. With no lyrics in the liner notes, I can’t tell you what Bruno is yelling, except it reminds me of those wild eyed men in trench-coats on the train, shouting to their own private audience. ‘It Can’t Be Done’ and ‘It Don’t Matter’ are the most lo-fi sounding tracks and also the most sarcastic, especially ‘It Don’t Matter’, which should’ve been the title track because it seems to sum up the sentiments of the album better.
Maybe in pieces, or as something different and entirely separate to Peabody’s earlier records, Loose Manifesto will work. The noise and the grind and the shoegaze definitely has its appeal, but it’s not the same kind of appeal we’ve come to expect.