Again Into Eyes has been long anticipated. Throughout the SIGNALS series, recent single ‘Amber Hands’, and with the knowledge that not only Grinderman’s Jim Sclavunos, but also Ken and Jolyon Thomas – who have worked with names such as Sigur Ros and David Bowie – have been involved with the album production, it’s unsurprising that S.C.U.M’s debut has received so much media attention.
Although as a band, S.C.U.M present themselves as, at very least, aloof, there’s an air of desperation to frontman Thomas Cohen’s vocals, as though he’s pleading with you for something. What that may be, however, is in no way made known through the lyrics, which possess an outlandish ambiguity and general indecipherable nature that do nothing to divulge meaning to S.C.U.M’s music. In places, Cohen very much uses his voice as another instrument, its Bauhaus-esque reverberations adding yet more layers to their already multifaceted sound. A particular example of this, the vocals on ‘Days Untrue’, so distorted they could have been recorded underwater.
The quiet reflection of ‘Paris’ (which survives from a previous incarnation in the SIGNALS series) provides a serene midpoint in the album, in some ways an indication of what follows, for the latter half of Again Into Eyes takes the focus away from the, at times, harsh, lamenting vocals, and places more emphasis on the music, throbbing bass lines, echoey synths, and understated though entirely unyielding drumming. The Horrors comparisons run thick and fast, a synth part here, vocal line there – and as much as S.C.U.M don’t always welcome the association, it’s pretty unavoidable.
It’s album closer, and soon to be new single, ‘Whitechapel’ that, through comparative clarity, provides a high point to the record. Rising waves of synth bleed into an almost upbeat rhythm section, by S.C.U.M’s standards, it’s practically a pop song!
Many have thrown around accusations of pretention, unnecessarily eschewing the listenable, but I think there’s more to it than that, S.C.U.M have produced a debut both unfathomable and refined, not just gothic but strangely danceable. And it’s a debut that promises, if not mainstream success, something of a tangible basis for whatever it is they chose to do next.
Released on 12th September 2011 by Mute