As the fog rolls across Belfast Lough, veiling from sight that which should not be seen, the mists slowly ebb to reveal the Norman battlements and gaudy new apartments. Watching every movement, observing the petty foibles of the populace, are the anarchist anomalies that bow to no-one, take notes, record the absurdity, and commit it all into a musical insanity that matches the vexacious nature of early 21st Century life.
Yes, the guides that are NASA Assassin have been taking down names, and once more have unleashed a collection of songs for all us miscreants to revel in.
The release of the wondrous ‘Glitterbalder’ comes in the wake of a series of gigs that have enabled NA to road test some of the tracks: but even so when one delves into the album there is a coherence and glory that invites the listener into repeated listens along the lyrical and musical journey. Indeed it holds more together than the début release, the excellent ‘Area 69’. It is, however, the logical successor to that tome five years on
Sure, ‘5-Way Split’ echoes the rampaging eponymous NASA Assassin from that first album, and we can see the extension of ‘Sexy Nervous Breakdown’ via ‘S.N.B II: Iron Wings’. But this is not re-treading old ground, this is a band that has laboured to encapsulate the essence of their twisted vision.
And, they are something of the visionary about them. Are they punk? Are they alt? Are they rock? Are they metal? Are they pop? Nah, they are NASA Assassin revelling in what they do. All hail Pronk!
A complaint that could be levelled at Glitterblader is that it is over too quickly. As ‘Salt Mines’ closes it out, with a reprise of opener ‘54.7137 N, 5.8063 W’ it all seems to have disappeared all too quickly. Best to play it again then.
That said repeated listens unveil more layers, more wit, more subtleties. Whether it is the pulsing FX, weaving guitar lines and hypnotic rhythms. The tone is set with ‘5-Way Split’, driven by Aidy’s bassline, as the patterns unfurl around the drums to give a canvas for The Watcher (now re-branded on the album as The Beholder) to challenge what we believe and see.
Having resided in Carrickfergus for some time the obssession with Carrick is something residents of the rest of Northern Ireland and Carrick itself is not so much taking the piss, but outlining the ridiculous nature of small town life – even if The Watcher declares that he has put the coastal town back on the map on the wondrous ‘Goodbye Blazer, Hello Razor’ on which he calls out the “digital carnivores ready to maul it”.
The defining moments of 5-Way Split echo Joy Division, if that band had grown up in Carrick and bottle-fed from a young age on Buckfast, but throughout the release it is cleaar that NASA Assassin have taken their influences and through a weird alchemy produced something unique. From Aidy’s bass across a Pandora’s Horn of plentiful musical chops.
Add in The Watcher’s ambiguous – and at times hilarious words – and Glitterbalder is a masterowrk showing that you can go leftfield and still produce a compelling listen.
However, what really sets it apart is the themes that run musically and lyrically. Sure there is whimsy, but more importantly wit and wisdom weave it throughout. With the Pronk power there is also the pain of love won and lost sitting alongside the cynical gaze. They say that the cynic is the most caring because they understand wht is wrong with the world.
Special mention hs to go to ‘The Cover of the Sunday Life’ with guest guitarist Nathan Connolly. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, his dayjob is woth Snow Patrol and has a side project Little Matador. It’s not that ‘The Cover of Sunday Life is any better than the rest of the album, it’s just that we hope Snow Patrol ‘completists’ will rush out to buy Glitterbalder in their droves thereby rewarding NA with loads of flithy luchre.
It is hard to pick a stand-out track on this album, because it is a stand-out album.
We’ll give you an idea of how stand-out is with the band’s own description of what they do each:
Rabb McNabb – Interdimensional Bangs and Clangs
Aidy Fudge – Rumble Spectrum
Eric – Pronk Honk Continium
Stevie Ray Dog – Vortex Manipulation
The Beholder -Utterance projection and observation
You see in these days of musical despair it is easy to be lost the maelstrom of genres and clichés and outre attempts to think outside the box. NASA Assassin stomp on the box, defy definition and level a beady gaze on you lest you fail to bow to the Pronk.
Review by Jonathan Traynor