Malachai are a duo; a surname less duo called -Gee’ and -Scott’ no less. This is a fact that needs asserting from the get go, because one of the first impressions that this marvellously bonkers jumble-sale of an album will leave on anyone is how unlikely it seems that a couple of dudes can be behind something so clatteringly dense and noisy, taking in so many genres (garage rock, trip hop, ska, surf – to name four of a potential baker’s dozen) and influences. Surely they’ve sneaked in an army of gnarly old session musicians to pad things out here and there? Nope. While The Ugly Side of Love may sound like Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band having a fight with Clouddead and a few members of The Incredible String Band, the liner notes reassure us that there are just two of them; -Scott’ and -Gee’, two dudes whose first single -Shitkicker’ was released by Bristolian tastemaker Geoff Barrow, and who subsequently signed to Domino.
The second impression left by the record is that Malachai really do not give a hoot about traditional song structures. As the record’s thirteen tracks rattle past in about 30 minutes, the verse-chorus-verse structure is punched, kicked, hurt with scissors and burnt with fire. Songs take funny u turns, end before they should, and sometimes just collapse in heaps. Such larks give the album a strangely tardis-like feel, there’s a lot more in this experience than 30 minutes should really account for.
The last impression The Ugly Side of Love leaves on the listener is how coherent it actually sounds in spite of being quite obviously on drugs and all over the shop. Something ties all the influences together; Gee’s vocals perhaps? His expressive neo-garage stylings are the only thing that garage freak-out -shitkicker’ and the flabbergasting trip hop oddness of -Blackbird’ have in common. There’s also an attitude present that just about sellotapes it all together, a sort of -anything goes’ exuberance that recalls The Coral’s excellent early albums. Whatever it is, it’s alchemical and it works. This album is too strange to do well commercially, and that’s a shame because it is bound to be one of the finest British releases of 2010. Mad as a bag of frogs though.