REVIEW: The Cool Greenhouse
First things first - yes this is distinctly post-punk in sound. But as fashionable as it appears to be to compare every vaguely such sounding band directly back to The Fall (presumably my 'I know who The Fall are' club badge is now in the post to me too), for my money this collection of songs sits closer in themes and feel to the The Rakes' Capture / Release or early The Streets. In any case, such music nerd-ery misses the point - which is whatever the influences may be, there is plenty of new enjoyment to be had from this London band.
Earlier singles were grounded in minimalist drum machine beats and jagged, rough around the edges guitars, which all ratcheted along like a Victorian perpetual motion music machine. And whilst the machine has had a meagre ration of studio spit and polish and the drums are human driven, the approach here is the same.
Rhythms and guitar are tight and minimal in range (but not energy) throughout, with a mere two or three chords to a song commonplace. The result dares you to take you and your attention span to elsewhere more immediately gratifying, or fully submit yourself to the will of the band.
The latter option reveals to you that front-man Tom Greenhouse posseses an instinctive knack for delivering observation wit in tandem with melody. This is deployed through vocals which are direct but, thankfully, noticeably absent of faux angst. The bite is instead provided via dry humour, sharp satire and multi-character based commentary on the ironies of modern life. These are very much at the fore of the songs, and accompanied by the instrumentation.
The Sticks' protagonist begins by reciting relatively common conspiratorial thoughts, but rapidly whirls towards paranoia and new, far-fetched conclusions. Observations of the artificial nature of suburbia provoke suspicion about a quirk here, an oddity of local behaviour there... covert recording and mind control everywhere. There is something of a dark, twisted The Truman Show here, with a rapidly developing awareness of a constructed reality and 'shops run by robots'. We're invited to revisit boundaries between reality, healthy cynicism and fantasy. But we all know imaginary is imaginary and real is just real. Right?
The Cardboard Man, meanwhile, is a damning portrait of superficial - contrived, even - centrism, with some of the most cringe worthy aspects of acceptable-face-of-politics-in-chief David Cameron provided as convincing evidence. By extension, wider societal hypocrisies are brought into question - rekindling something of The Streets' The Irony of it All.
Life Advice is a not so sideways swipe at advice culture, with odd sources offering up even odder and utterly useless nuggets of wisdom. Musically, the second single from this album retains the characteristic jagged guitars, but the minimalism is relaxed just a little - to include three chords and a distinct chorus, no less - to produce a superb slice of wonky guitar pop-punk and the bands most rounded song to date.
With their debut, then, The Cool Greenhouse have delivered a defiantly distinctive debut, which has an all too rare satirical commentary at its core. And if ever there was a need for this, surely it is now.
The Cool Greenhouse is the //HAPPY on the INSIDE// Album of the Month for May 2020 releases.