No Handshake Blues by Irma Vep

Release date: January 13, 2017
Label: Faux Discx

Those of you looking for a change in mood from Irma Vep on new album No Handshake Blues best look away as the Welsh/Manc miserabilists ratchet the desperate tension up a further few notches. Intent on bringing you down, Irma Vep scour the dirty barrel of blues that Tom Waits has made his home and distorts it through monotonous guitars and lamenting melodies. A bruised psychedelia, steeped in the low rumble of torn vocals, there is little that invites, yet stick around and you may find solace.

Perhaps solace is the right instinct for No Handshake Blues. The glorious opener of ‘A Woman’s Work Is Never Done’ may reach out to a mass audience with its layered start full of stadium beckoning guitars, yet once it settles soon reverts to a one tone Velvet Underground lament there is only your own company. The outside world is a frightening place here, and it’s within the walls of distorted noise that we find a kind of bleached out comfort.

It doesn’t get any easier either. Lyrics turn to severed heads on ‘It Runs Slow’ before all hope is lost on the instrumental title track, an almost non-occurrence which tremors your soul as the guitar shimmers. Production values are decidedly low key too, adding to that sense of being recorded in the bathroom whilst pondering your existence in the mirror on the wall. You get the gist? Irma Vep are not happy souls.

What is perhaps surprising then, is how enticingly wonderful this album can be at times. The very definition of a slow-burner, once the song’s settle you start to welcome the bleakness within. It’s almost cathartic and primal in the way it seeps into your conscience and opens hitherto shut doors. Maybe we all need a slice of depressive miserabilism to help cope with an increasingly worrying world. That primal howl on ‘The Moaning Song’ reflecting both the worlds pain and your inner anguish.

‘I Want To Be Degraded’ curiously threatens to turn into Sinatra’s New York, New York at one point which may have been completely accidental, or just this reviewers ears, but it does demonstrate a similarity in the torch song, thus linking it to the blues. This melodramatic edge is further prominent on the excellent ‘You Know I’ve Been Ill’ which manages sound like the bastard love child of Luke Haines and Morrissey at its wonderful coda.

No Handshake Blues won’t be to everyone’s taste but if you are looking for a gloriously miserable start to 2017 then you need look no further. Grab yourself a whiskey, some stale cheese from the cupboard and a mirror, listen and ponder your existence. You may find yourself feeling strangely happy by the end of it. Irma Vep have released a curious conundrum of an album and one which sets the bar high for the new year. Come and join the new miserabilism.

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