Beginnings are difficult. Take this review for example; hours were spent thinking about an ideal introduction that would tie the article together thematically, as well as providing a snappy start. Imagine then just how painstaking and meticulous the decision of how to start an album must be. It’s the first thing the listener will hear, bar any promotional singles released prior, and sets the tone for the piece. Too many bands nowadays elect for airy synthesisers or a slow acoustic phrase as a way of kicking things off, and it feels a bit hackneyed. Starting an album firing on all cylinders is a far more scintillating proposition, and it’s exactly what The St Pierre Snake Invasion have done.
The opening seconds of Caprice Enchanté are a blistering, The Dillinger Escape Plan-style frenzy of heavy guitars and feedback played at a frenetic tempo. The song evolves into a punky, palm muted chug a la Turnstile, as the mantra of ‘The rowers keep on rowing’ grows to a fever pitch of barely contained furore. The Safety Word Is Oklahoma is a kind of expository opening to the album, as it frames the sonic style for what’s to come, and lyrically lays out the themes to be explored, namely ego, the self and self-principle.
Remystery takes a more groove oriented stance of punk, sounding like the bounce of Every Time I Die in its fluid motion and angular chord structures. Damien Sayell gives a truly magnificent and dextrous performance on this song – the first of many it has to be said – going from Greg Puciato-esque screams to a baritone vocal fry in spoken word sections, all while injecting melody into every lyrical phrase. Lyrically, Braindead is perhaps the most quintessentially punk the album gets, being about right wing politics and the rhetoric of deception. Aptly, the musicianship feels like it could come from Refused’s Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent; heady, adventurous, exploratory but ultimately fantastically enjoyable punk. At this point the guitar work of Patrick Daly and Szack Notaro has to be lauded. They craft riffs that are at once groovy and danceable, yet off-kilter and obtuse. It’s craftsmanship of the highest order.
Perhaps the best summation of everything The St Pierre Snake Invasion can do and do do comes in the form of the stunning Carroll A Deering, a sonically diverse amalgamation of everything that makes the band such an exciting unit. Starting off as a heavy hardcore song in the vein of Refused and Every Time I Die, it has the same groove and swagger found in the prior tracks, before settling into a bed of broadly alternative influence with its bridge section. A record scratch gives way to an acid jazzy middle segment that harks back to 43% Burnt by Dillinger, before the explosive band return, only to erupt into a choral refrain that feels distinctly Gregorian. The song is rounded out by a doomy breakdown that is sure to see bodies flying in the live environment. So in three minutes and fifty six seconds we have the groove of Every Time I Die, the breadth of musicality of Refused, the off kilter thinking of Dillinger, and the boundless scope of Faith No More. This band are something else.
Following on comes the album’s lead single and arguable centrepiece, Casanovocaine. A song that seems to delight in the pointlessness of life’s endeavours, it moves beautifully from moments of joviality to anger, frustration and bile, all the while being an introspective and reflexive masterpiece. The chorus of ‘Anything can happen though you know it won’t’ should give you a hint as to the desperately bleak attitude. After this the album takes a tonal turn, as if Casanovocaine has influenced the very structure of Caprice Enchanté. The Idiots Guide To Music is a far slower, sneering song than its predecessors, with an atonal hook that will implant itself deep in your brain. It feels like the snot nosed punk of the 1970s, but with a futuristic sensibility and deeper contemptuous attitude. Much like the rest of this album, The St Pierre Snake Invasion have made it feel timeless.
The title track of the album takes a brief return to the more frenzied pace that started the journey, with a chorus that will make for riotous good fun live. It Gave A Lovely Light acts as a folk inspired interlude within the album, sung cleanly and quite beautifully. Omens is a doom laden, hulking creature that stalks around you, unsettlingly dwelling in your ear canal. It also features the unmistakable dulcet tones of someone who sounds exactly like musical maestro, Jamie Lenman. Whether or not it is the man himself, this vocal duality brings an extra dimension of sonic class to the album as the shared duties work harmoniously together. Not All Who Wander Are Lost retains with that same ETID/TDEP frenzied stomp, while Things To Do In Denbigh When You’re Dead, despite starting with a scathing scream, leans heavily on the alternative side of TSPSI’s sound, with a meaty, distorted bass line that calls to mind the best of the Grunge era. Pierre Brassau goes in hard on the off kilter rhythm and leads, sounding like a histrionic descent into madness via way of the glorious revolution.
Finale, I Am The Lonely Tourist, is a mid tempo, elegant, elegiac semi-ballad about disillusionment and isolation. It is in keeping with the aforementioned themes of ego, the self and self-principle, even if musically it stands out as something anathema to the majority of the rest of the album. It is a beautiful piece of music that is built on peaks and valleys of dynamic musicality, ending softly in a gentle goodbye, a serenade for the listener. Every plaudit afforded to this finale can be attributed to Caprice Enchanté as a whole. It is an absolutely stunning album of impressive magnitude, one that disregards genre conventions and boundaries, dynamically ebbing and flowing through harsh, heavy hardcore, alt-punk, gospel, folk, jazz and most importantly, more punk. It is an album that demands attention, and rewards contemplation and repeat listens. It’s raw, emotional, funny, jovial, insecure and insincere, yet with a seriousness that can’t be denied. It’s an album to get behind as it leads the charge for change, even if the players don’t fully believe in their convictions as much as they ought to. This is a classic album, and if there is any justice it will be held in such regard for many years to come.
The St Pierre Snake Invasion’s new album Caprice Enchanté is released on the 21st of June.