Overall Score: 8/10 Performance : 8/10 Musicianship: 8/10 Lyrics: 8/10 Pros: Off kilter, unusual music that delights and confounds in equal measure | Beautifully executed and eclectic throughout Cons: If anything you are left wanting more!
After releasing a critically acclaimed and modestly successful EP in the shape of Goodbye Dinosaur…, Phoxjaw are riding the crest of a wave. With their follow up release, A Playground For Sad Adults, the band are going for broke pushing to get to the next level of reverence in underground circles and beyond. A sprawling adventure of a release, it takes myriad influences and combines them into a deluge of interesting music, ripe for analysis and interpretation.
The first thing of note, of which Melt, You’re A Face Of Wax – the first song on the EP – is emblematic, is the inherent weirdness within this release. It’s not kooky or wacky or any derivative of god awful music that tries desperately to make itself outsider art, or worse “funny”, but instead something of creeping tension. The off kilter musicianship and spiralling penmanship of the lyrics makes for an unsettling experience akin to the skin crawling witticisms of Mr Bungle or Primus, so we are definitely and quite firmly in the realm of the odd. Melt… Itself is something of an isolated case within the EP however, being the most overtly unusual that things get as for the remainder of the run time the oddities Phoxjaw have up their collective sleeve take a back seat.
This back seat of weirdness leaves plenty of room for the steering wheel to be taken by the band’s apparent influences, most notably Deftones. The riff that begins the stunning Whale, Whale, Whale could easily slot into Around the Fur and no-one would bat an eyelid, as it lurches and grows into something of real beauty. This beauty is somewhat tempered by the aforementioned strangeness, and gives the EP a feeling of something beautiful in a warped view; a painting viewed through shattered glass. Lyrically there is certainly a fragmented beauty to be found in the way that the seemingly nonsensical phrasing and metaphors call to mind Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At The Drive In fame. ‘Like a Bengal tiger// I’m high as a kite’ is the first of such scrambled images conjured up, but you soon realise that it’s a case of the voice and pronunciation of words being used as an instrument as opposed to a lead player unto itself.
The cyclical nature of the EP – ending with a lead in to its own beginning – makes this a delightfully addictive listen. You really do feel as though you have to replay the whole affair each time the delightfully macabre The Curse Of The Button Man comes to an end. This EP is impressive in its craft, and executed with a panache normally reserved for far more established bands. They play with a maturity that is only achieved through many years of hard graft, and a cohesion that speaks to a unit on a singular wavelength. The only real criticism to be found is that by the end of the tenth listen, you are crying out for a full length to sink your teeth into. An absolutely sterling piece of work.
The new Phoxjaw EP, A Playground For Sad Adults is released on the 5th of July 2019 through Hassle Records.