Double Play: Bat For Lashes/Red Fang

Iann Robinson reviews new albums from Bat For Lashes and Red Fang.

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Double Play: Bat For Lashes/Red Fang

Bat For Lashes: Two Suns

Magical. Alien. Elemental. Ethereal. Beautiful.

These are not adjectives I toss around arbitrarily but with Bat For Lashes new album “Two Suns” those are the words that instantly come to mind. BFL don’t seem purely interested in writing albums as much as being intent on creating slabs of art drawn from the melancholy center of our soul. The one that haunts us everyday by reminding us of the guilt, loss and pain we have all felt. However BFL manage to draw this melancholy out in a way that seems to celebrate it rather than wallow. This whole record feels like a celebration of the pain that makes us all uniquely human.

The heart and soul of BFL is British singer and multi-instrumentalist Natasha Khan. BFL is Khan’s project, her artistic statement to the world and she crafts it with an old soul that betrays her thirty years on the planet. From the opening track “Glass” you are drawn into her world. This is a chance to walk around inside her mind for an hour or so and I highly recommend taking the trip. BFL’s music moves like a silent stream, weaving constantly in an out of itself without feeling the need to disturb the quiet around it.

These are more like quiet prayers to the heart, a still and introspective communication we all need to have with ourselves. Khan can make statements so personal but yet communicate them on a wider plain. She understands the power of art and has no problem in wielding it.

Khan’s voice is the secret weapon in BFL. It is unique and beautiful, sounding more like a convergence of the elements than a human voice. It is the very definition of haunting. The way she lays back inside the song itself and doesn’t force her vocals over the music gives it the effect that she’s beckoning you from some far away place just behind the light. I know this all sounds very pretentious but I swear it’s true. If you have a truly empathetic and open heart then Natasha Khan will reach into you and bring that heart to life. She’s like Bjork when Bjork was still important.

While the entire Two Suns album is incredible there are obvious stand out tracks like “Daniel” which could either be about lost love, unrequited love or a mother lamenting her fallen child. Khan leaves those choices up to you. “Pearls Dream” is one of the fewer upbeat numbers and it has an incredible chorus I challenge you not to sing for days after. I was also a huge fan of “Two Planets” a spacious and trippy song that is a lot of fun to get high to.

While these three are definitely examples of how varied “Two Suns” is you really need to hear the entire album to get the full experience. The songs build off of each other with the entire thing being laid out like a journey. To only listen to Two Suns for singles would be like reading every other page of a book, you might enjoy it but it won’t be nearly as powerful. Like Antony & The Johnsons, Camera Obscura, William Elliott Whitmore and others Bat For Lashes is giving me hope once again that music and art can unify and take over the world.

Red Fang: S/T

When the music you make has a formula the key to making it good is to not be formulaic about it. Red Fang and their new self-titled album do exactly that and do it way better than most. Some would try and lump Red Fang in the long dead beast called Stonerrock but only to those who don’t really listen to the album. This is huge, epic, rock that walks into your home, drinks all your beer, fucks your girlfriend then burns the whole shitpile down before leaving. Nothing on this album is formulaic and Red Fang work hard to keep that idea alive.

Red Fang’s album explodes out of the gate with the extremely catchy and nut stomping jam “Prehistoric Dog”. Any other band would have let this riff play out straight because it’s such a groovy bitch. Red Fang would rather fuck with us. They reinterpret the riff during the intro in five different ways so when they do lay into the groove you feel like you’ve been unleashed with a carton of cigarettes, a bottle of whiskey and a 1970 ½ Camaro. I would go so far to say this is Muscle Rock not stoner.

Then Red Fang decide to slap your head around even more by changing up the style of what they do on the song “Night Destroyer” which is more of a boogie rock vibe. Suddenly you’re no longer in your Camaro suddenly you’re an action adventure star involved in a fucked up car chase with a drug czar. That’s not what the song is actually about just what it feels like.

Red Fang change it up again in the ethereal and straight weird “Humans Remain, Humans Remain”. This tune is what happens when you do bong hits with beer instead of water and then re-imagine Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii being recorded by a family of Sasquatch. You think that’s fucked up? Listen to the song!!

Red Fang’s album is filled with groove and power but the band continues mixing up the presentation of each song so it avoids the pitfalls of other bands in this style. Another weapon in their arsenal are the voices of David Sullivan and Bryan Giles who split vocal and guitar duties. Like the songs the vocals switch up as needed going from melodic to pummeling to a pure animal holler.

I look at Red Fang as a Southpaw band, able to switch it up when the fight calls for it. When you’re establishing your dominance in the new world of Muscle Rock (yep my creation) then you need to know how to change your fighting style for every throw down. Red Fang have an album filled with ten different ways of battling and each one kicks much ass.

If I had to find flaw I’d say sometimes the production loses the instruments in the quest to be dirty but I’d be nit picking. Red Fang are a powerhouse rock outfit that isn’t afraid to stir the shit and find new piercing smells to fuck your head up with. Who could ask for more than that?