Nearly there but nowhere near
To best give an idea of the sonic effect of this record, a quote from the press release might be helpful - 'Taking the very best elements of 60s psychedelic music...updating it for a 21st Century audience...The Snap Elect find themselves poised to unleash their unique brand of Powergum to music lovers everywhere.'
There is no denying a 60s influence, but it's the 'best of' that has you wondering. On first listening, 'Years of Brews' put me in mind of a poor cover of 'Brown Sugar'. Bassy drumming splashed with messy riffs from vintage styled keys and guitar. It's not only the fact that keys and guitar are playing the same tune together (a confused effect repeated on 'Heed the Call' when bass and lead guitar play the same riff) but the notes and various instruments trip over one another in a confused muddle. Enter vocals that throughout are reminiscent of a bad Jagger impression, the Beach Boys or the Animals, but lacking the finesse of the classics – though vocals are a strong point compared to the instrumentation.
'Their unique brand of Powergum' - the band press defines this as 'a combination of powerpop and bubblegum music.' It's what first drew my attention to and on listening, quickly repelled me again. The Snap Elect are neither 'powerpop' nor 'bubblegum' - there are no arching emotive fanfares nor sugar sweet tweenie trills. There are however nearly-but-not-quite-there vocal melodies and guitar riffs, and confused instrumentation and rhythms, and the band's technical inadequacies cannot be covered up by inventing a new genre.
It's not only (un)melodic notes that trip over one another but the aural ideas in each track. As exemplified in 'Don't you Ever Breathe,' vocals follow riffs follow beats follow incongruent distorted rock guitar, without giving any half the chance to catch a breath and take the spotlight. There are some sparks of inspiration - good Beach Boys-esque ensemble vocals on 'Magnafox,' classic key riffs in places, and a pleasant sprinkling of cow bell. However each otherwise interesting musical idea is clumsily executed, then carelessly thrown in and mixed up in the fray - along with some confused, tricky to follow, irregular, and often jarring rhythmic patterns.
As for being 'poised to unleash their sound,' The Snap Elect have the potential - vintage quirks, fun and energetic vibe and some good melodic ideas, but at the moment 'Mangled Angle Land' is just that: a headache of gauchely tangled noise that really needs stripping down, overhauling and tightening up. This monster needs some serious training up before it's let off the lead, but if you want to try them out live, their launch is next week (George Tavern, Whitechapel, November 4th). Enjoy.