BLIND TASTE TEST: Late of the Pier – Fantasy Black Channel

I already know you won’t like this Fran but here goes anyway.

It’s Late of the Pier with their one and only album Fantasy Black Channel. How to sum it up? Let’s go with this: ever wondered what nu-rave did next? I know for you the answer to this is simply “no”, but let’s go with post-nu-rave-MySpace-glitch-metal. I’ve put you off even more, haven’t I? Within whatever limits of this genre I’ve just made up, I’d argue it’s still a pretty varied album and shows off the wild creativity of the band and particularly of frontman Sam Eastgate. I need to mention him because he’s my way in for you. I remember you enjoying LA PRIEST and Gene a couple of years back. Well Sam Eastgate is the same guy and I thought you’d get a kick out of hearing more of his music. You may well have heard it before, particularly from hanging round with a certain Mr Matt Paul at uni. So let’s see what you think. My best hope is at least you can appreciate it even if it’s not something you’ll ever listen to again. And at least admit that ‘Space and the Woods’ is a banger.

James

Sheesh. I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘sheesh’ before but wow… You have done some job of making me dread this album. With every phrase you type you make me less excited. But then maybe that’s your plan, to lower my expectations to such a level that if Late of the Pier manage not to be the worst band I’ve ever heard then your Blind Taste Test can be considered a success.

Here I am, pressing play, not an excited bone in my body…

That creamy guitar at the start of ‘Hot Tent Blues’ has not changed my initial excitement levels. Oh. Hang on. That’s the whole song.

Guitar. Creamy. What a weird way to open.

I’m nearly a minute into ‘Broken’ now. Does anyone sing on this album? Oh. Yes. They do. I’m not sure if that is Sam Eastgate singing or not but whoever it is definitely doesn’t sound as distinctive as the bloke who made Gene. The vocal performance sounds like so many other bands from the time but The Futureheads are the only one that is coming to mind right now.

I wouldn’t say I hate ‘Broken’, though. It’s just the epitome of okay. With a bit of glitch thrown on the end to make it seem creative.

Next is the track you told me to look out for. ‘Space and the Woods.’ Meh. Maybe it is, as you say, a ‘banger’. But it is a boring one that sounds like nearly all the other songs in this era and genre. ‘Broken’ was better. Hang on, though – they have thrown some more glitch in the middle to make it interesting again. This is basically a Franz Ferdinand song, though. Right?

Take Me Out.

The next one is called ‘The Bears Are Coming.’ I like bears. I watched a documentary series about a bear family a few years ago and it was amazing – they’re probably my favourite animal. Bears are great.

‘Random Firl’ has the first beat I can kind of get on board with. It’s like a tinkly computer game soundtrack and I’m here for it. It’s also the first time I’ve heard hints of the sound of that LA Priest album I liked so much and, while this is much less unique and interesting, it’s fun to hear where the ideas for that album might have originated.

One thing I can agree with from your intro, James, is when you say that the album is pretty varied. ‘Heartbeat’ is a more straightforward rocker than anything that has come before. Too chirpy for me, though.

The beginning of ‘Whitesnake’ made it seem like they were going to slow it down and I got excited for a minute, but they quickly put that idea to bed. More computer game keys, but this time with a little bit more tension. This song probably does have the album’s most interesting section so far, though, as we go into the second half. It almost feels like it’s been lifted from a horror movie scene, a character being chased to their death by a bunch of zombies. That one wasn’t bad.

‘VW’ again gives some interesting hints to what Sam Eastgate would go on to do, but while LA Priest uses experimentalism with nuance this song plasters it on with a shovel.

Listening to ‘Focker’ I’m going to make an uneducated guess that this was a single and is probably one of their more popular songs. This seems to me to be the coming together of all the things they are trying to do on this album – the relentless pace, the undulating vocal, the slower section in the middle that then leads to chaos and some glitchy experimentalism. I imagine this was the song that sent fans wild at the shows and it is, for me, the most successful track so far.

It seems they are finally going to slow things down for ‘The Enemy Are The Future.’ They shouldn’t have. I spend the first half of this song wondering if it they are talking about the band The Enemy who released their debut album the year before the one we are discussing here.
That band were not the future.

It’s the longest song so far, though, and it does actually start to get a lot more interesting in the second half. So far I have been thinking that James’s claims of ‘wild creativity’ were grossly overstated but, in the latter 3 minutes here, I can see that. They’ve pulled something back with these past two songs for me – I’ve gone from dismissing them to getting what they’re about. I am starting to see why they are rated, even if I am aware they won’t be making their way into my own rotation.

They’re back to sounding like 300 other bands on ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen.’

The last song starts with the best riff of the album so far and, as the synths kick in, ‘Bathroom Gurgle’ could almost be an LA Priest song. Sam sounds like he is trying to sing and write like lots of other people at this point, though, whereas with Gene he sounds like an artist all in his own right.

It has been interesting to see his roots, though – and it has been the parts when that link has been most obvious that this album has spoken to me. Those moments have been rare, though. A lot of this album sounded like a lot of the other music from this era that I could never get into. I don’t come away wondering how anyone could enjoy this, though – there is enough there for it to make sense to me. To end on a positive – I can think of at least thirty albums you’ve recommended to me that have been worse than this one, James.

Words by James Spearing and Fran Slater

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