It seems the worse a situation gets, the better the music from the underground becomes a form of retaliation. The world is currently undergoing the sixth mass extinction, and obscene ever-widening gap between the rich and poor made worse by over a decade of austerity removing all safety nets and now literally engulfed by a deadly pandemic. Amidst of all these pending disasters and somehow making sense of it all are young upstarts Egyptian Blue, who summon the fiery left-wing agitation and spiky stripped-down funk of Gang Of Four, yet somehow also channel the playful experimental exuberance of Sonic Youth.
Originally from Colchester, now relocated to be immersed in the creative epicentre of Brighton, the band members include Andy Buss and Leith Ambrose, who share guitars and vocals, with Isaac Ide playing drums and Luke Pelps on bass.
I caught Egyptian Blue not so long ago, supporting The Murder Capital, and what struck me then was both the immense controlled energy, which became increasingly impressive as their set continued, and that it also felt like a slight mismatch of a bill. Egyptian Blue are commonly being tagged as post punk, but this feels like a mislabel as they sound far more akin to the no wave bands that emerged from New York in the late ‘70s, owing to their unconventional approach to articulating anger through flurries of jagged riffs often drenched in deep seas of delay and reverb.
Following the release of their acclaimed debut EP, Collateral Damage, the bellicose quintet are back with a second, named Body Of Itch, which may only be three tracks long, but certainly packs a punch and exhibits the early flourishes of an eager band with plenty of ideas.
Body Of Itch begins with the muscular song ‘Nylon Wire’ which, owing to the initial brief flurry of harmonics followed by taut stabs of tightly wound guitar, is perfectly titled. Apparently inspired from snatches of overhead conversations during a big night out, ‘Nylon Wire’ takes a wave of paranoia compiled with self-doubt and somehow transforms it into a riotous anthem. And coming in at just over two minutes, it’s a frenetic rush to the finish and does what all good gigs and singles should do – leaves the listener desperately wanting more.
Egyptian Blue tear down the crushing monotony of mètro, boulot, dodo by imitating the constant tick tock of the bosses’ clock in machine and the grinding despair of the never-ending shift on second song ‘Four Is The Last Four’. While we may all be trapped in wage slavery, the boys somehow manage to successfully tap into these frustrations and create a razor-sharp angry snarl that is oh so fucking cool.
On final track ‘Never’, the band remind us to keep our betters in a constant state of suspicion, recalling the lies of Blair and Bush Jr. about WMD to justify a war in Iraq. The elites continue to play the same old game of divide and conquer by employing propaganda and scapegoats, but these guitar wielding provocateurs won’t be fooled. Twisting and turning, you never quite have a bead on the song as ever shifting angular riffs meld, mutate and change as they employ loud / quiet dynamics to a mesmeric and devastating effect. As complex as the song is, ‘Never’ has a real singalong quality which, as it continues to rapidly press ahead, is sure to ignite the pit when they play with the chorus and repeated cry of “Deception” being answered by the rowdy throng.
Body Of Itch is all those nagging doubts and let downs of modern life put to irregular riffs and savagely barked rants. Dripping with cynicism and vitriol, it’s a vital listen for everyone displaced, distressed and alienated in late stage capitalism who still has the energy to dance at the death disco. It’s a trying time for everyone, particularly young bands that are still trying to get their foot in the door. But I can imagine the constraints of isolation and the terror of mass death will serve as inspiration for Egyptian Blue, and when this pandemic is over they are likely to be poised ready with even more incendiary material and soon taking their place as the headline act.
Collateral Damage is out now via Yala! Records.
10 – Lausanne, Switzerland – Festival de la Cite
25 – Deer Shed Festival
07 – Eggersriet, Switzerland – Sur Le Lac Festival
08 – Ritual Union Festival, Bristol
21-23 – Green Man Festival
11 – Brussels (Belgium) -SMG Music Festival
12 – Leffinge (Belgium)- Leffinge Leuren
16 – Tourcoing – Le Grand Mix
17 – Paris – Supersonic
18 – Nancy – L’Autre Canal
19 – Orleans – Hop Pop Hop
28 – Brighton – Green Door Store
29 – London – The Lexington
03 – Manchester – YES