By: Bruce Cowie
Flies Are Spies From Hell | website | facebook | bandcamp |
Sometimes, when I’ve been waiting a long time for a new album – waiting anxiously, impatiently, desperately, even – I find myself reluctant to listen to it when it finally arrives. In my mind, this album is a triumph, the best thing ever, and if I never actually listen to it, it will always remain exactly that. If I DO listen to it, it might let me down, it might NOT be the record I want it to be, and I will be disappointed and saddened1.
Such is the case with this new thing from Flies Are Spies From Hell. Their last proper album, Red Eyes Unravelling was released in 2009. It was a beast of an album, piano-led instrumental rock of the highest order, and whilst they have drip-fed me a few EPs and re-mixes in the meantime, I have been waiting for Underdog Underfoot’now for nearly six years. SIX. BLOODY. YEARS. And now I’m actually scared to listen to it.
But I have to. Here goes. Back later.
That’s the first word that comes to mind when I listen to Flies Are Spies From Hell2. From ‘Imagine Your Murder’s opening tumble of drums to the joyful guitars, the crunching riffs and THAT piano, everything they do seems to be saturated with a feeling of exuberant abandon that you will only find in a band which is enjoying itself enormously. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it takes endless hours of tedious graft in the studio to make music which sounds so carefree. I hope not.
(Wait… I’m assuming you all know who Flies Are Spies From Hell are. Perhaps you don’t. In which case, a little background info won’t go amiss. They’re from the bottom right-hand corner of England3, they’ve been a thing for quite some time4, and they play ‘intricate adrenalized instrumental post-rock’ featuring a very distinctive piano sound and lots of general loveliness.)
Anyone familiar with ‘Red Eyes Unravelling’ will know what to expect5. Indeed, there’s a bit in ‘Fail Better’ which is more than a little reminiscent of ‘The Great Deadener’ from that first album. But that’s only a tiny niggle, something I’m more than happy to forgive. This is clearly the same band, but perhaps Underdog Underfoot is a little more mature, a little more thoughtful. Maybe a little more refined. Not quite such a headlong rush. Some of it is simply glorious. Go to ‘Slow Heat Death’, from about the 3:50 mark – that’s what Flies are all about. The piano, the ringing guitars, all of it, just fabulous. There’s a bit in ‘Beg For Sleep’ that’s just so beautiful it made me cry. Really. Look for it, I think you’ll know which bit it is.
‘Last Dust Settled’, too, is a lovely melancholy little thing, tucked in between the big finish of ‘Fail Better’ and the big start of ‘Hammer Without Hand’, a simple piano melody and some fuzzy noise, like radio static. It’s a nice place to stop for a couple of minutes to catch your breath.
Well, there you go. I did it. I listened to it. Is it the greatest thing ever? Probably not, but right now it sounds like a shoe-in for my Album of the Year list. It’s everything I wanted it to be. I’d rather not have had to wait six years for it, but I can live with that.
Is it post-rock, though? Hmmm… To be sure, it’s got the towering climaxes you might expect. There is none of that singing. It seems to tick most of the boxes6, but I’m not sure. It’s a bit proggy in places, and that piano verges on the classical at times. But, hey, it’s all good. I’m not going to argue about labels.
- You all get that too, don’t you? No? Just me then…
- Well, when I’m trying to describe them, anyway. The first word I really think of when listening to Flies Are Spies From Hell is ‘Flies’…
- For overseas readers who may be unfamiliar with UK geography, England is a rather dull region of Scotland. Lots of flat bits. UKIP and Tories. No Irn Bru.
- Remember, SIX years since their last album.
- Anybody unfamiliar with Red Eyes Unravelling should remedy that RIGHT NOW.
- No songs about astronauts, though. Or mountains/oceans/sky.