WHAT PRICE, WONDERLAND? "It Is True, It Is Shakey" LP
I’m confidently backing this record to still be sitting pretty in my top 3 records of the year come December. There’s still 5 months left of oh-nine, so as you can see – I talk a big game. It’s been eagerly awaited since their teaser of a split with Syn*Error last year. One track? Is that it? Yeah, thanks guys. Grumble.
So, about a year later, I’m certain it wasn’t just my pants that were wet with excitement. No. There were wet pants everywhere. And what’s not to wet your pants about? What Price Wonderland have consistently contradicted genres since their inception, and it sets them miles and miles apart from sound-alike cry-baby drivel and uninspired black-hair hardcore. This is punk rock which manages to sound sod-all like punk rock. It never chugs or growls, or does any of that formulaic bilge. The belligerence and vigour is perfectly present, but it steers clear of the audible characteristics, resulting in What Price Wonderland sounding like no other. They politely nod in the direction of True North and Assfactor 4 in equal measures as Minutemen and Cap’n Jazz, but rely very little on fuzzy guitars to add intensity and presence, opting for off-kilter chaotic structures instead. The drums barely break for respite as the guitar cleanly crunches beneath assertively spoken vocals, loudly shouted rather than sung or screamed. Clarity is the result. The jingly guitar. The sturdy vocal which is nothing more than a raised voice. Every note and every word is clear. Nothing is hidden. The entire record isn’t buried beneath a raspy, hoarse vocal and numerous distortion pedals. Everything is out in the open, as clear as day, bare naked. Whilst each track is a storm of clattering, disjointed noise, how openly clear it is conveyed makes it sound all the more delicate and unadulterated. The vigorous angst is uncompromising, yet it is wrapped up tightly with a chaotic yet brittle minimalist exterior. It stuns and tests patience as it starts abruptly as it stops. It storms into your house in the middle of the night, completely ransacks the place, and leaves before you’ve even had chance to get dressed. Crucial.
Emotion and conviction can often be lost in excessively refined production, but this record brags the bare essentials and very little else. It stands confidently open and elusive, unveiling everything and keeping nothing a secret. The only way this record could get any closer to the bone is if the three of them stood naked in the middle of a supermarket and cried.
So, it’s difficult to review a record that sounds like nothing else as it feels impossible to deconstruct and compare it. It thunderously blasts, its jangles, it strips down, it shouts in your face until it hurts, and that’s not even the half of it. It’s a relentless onslaught of the most un-punk rock sounding intricate, aggressive punk rock, tipping caps at all your favourite bands whilst getting absolutely nowhere near to sounding like any of them. Or perhaps its just a load of stupid incoherent noise? Potato po-tah-to.
Reviewed by Joe Callaghan