The history of Menace Beach has been one of a stealthy takeover by Liza Violet. Where 2015’s 'Ratworld' was all about Ryan Needham’s blasts of bone-rattling scuzzy guitars, 2017’s 'Lemon Memory' put Violet more towards the centre, opening up their sound a little bit into the outlandish and slightly gothic.
On their third record, 'Black Rainbow Sound', those dirgey guitars and bizarre synths fully collide into something that’s somewhere between Superchunk and The Sisters of Mercy, with a dash of Gary Numan thrown in for good measure. It’s a dizzying combination for sure, but it’s no less exhilarating if you’re in the right frame of mind, eschewing the poppier feel of 'Lemon Memory' for something a bit more experimental.
This intersection of 80s synth pop and 90s alt college rock is most obvious in 'Mutator', with its pulsating bassline, 'Cars'-esque synth and jangling riffs. '8000 Molecules', meanwhile, takes a trip into the celestial; twinkling synths the stars in the infinite blackness as we float towards Violet’s distorted vocals singing an anti-love song, 'I’m not in / I’m not in love'.
These tracks are nice enough, but it’s when things take a much weirder turn that 'Black Rainbow Sound' really comes into its own. The title track begins to feel like a bridge between 'Lemon Memory' and this album, easing us in with something that seems familiar but with an unusual twist, before fully throwing us into the madness that follows.
Album highlight 'Hypnotiser Keeps The Ball Rolling', with its wailing synths and swirling guitars, feels like riding a ghost train where everything’s gone slightly awry. The lights are flashing double-time and the cart is going a lot fast than it should do.
The scuzzed out chorus of 'Watermelon' is an absolute thrill ride, careening off into all sorts of directions, while the discordant sounds of both 'Satellite' and 'Tongue' see Violet and Needham pushing her machinery into the most unexpected of directions.
Menace Beach are not so concerned with creating an aesthetic. They’re not about the mystery; they just want to see what happens when they throw all these noises together. 'Black Rainbow Sound' is a colourfully cacophonous mash of the grungy and the gothic which sees Needham and Violet seeing just how far they can bend those analog synths, drum machines and fuzz-covered guitars. We’re just being dragged along for the ride, but what a ride it is.