Band: The Display Team
Label: Genin Records
Release date: Out now, chuckleheads
Sounds like: The Beach Boys + Rocket From The Crypt x System of a Down x Mike Patton rubbing his hands, cackling with glee = still not even close.
Let me create a rather daft but truthful metaphor for you: listening to The Display Team is like leaving several attention-deficit disorder kids with a load of art supplies and a big white wall that says â€œdo not touch.â€Â Within seconds youâ€™ve entered a world of garish paint splatters, demented scrawls, bizarre constructs, amusing doodles, eccentric caricatures and the feeling that youâ€™ve just discovered a group of masterminds.
Back to reality: The Display Team are 6 individuals; 2 guitars, 1 bassist, a drummer, a trombonist and a trumpet player who create the kind of batshit insane-musical chaos that will leave you more confused than sitting through both Matrix sequels back-to-back. The underlying style is raucous punk rock that has been shattered with a sledge hammer and scattered with numerous other styles. These range from flamboyant lounge-jazz, to sporadic hardcore, to even a dash of reggae, to ballsy rock ‘n roll and of course, the circus frivolity of ska. However,Ã‚Â it is the vocals that really slap the listener around the face like some enormous metal claw. With all 6 of The Display Teamâ€™s personnel contributing their fine sets of lungs to vocal proceedings; many of the tracks on ‘Dronesâ€™ are given a strange ‘A cappellaâ€™ feel (but of course one accompanied by instruments) or as I like to say, â€œa punk rock Beach Boysâ€Â and to me, it is this that sets them apart from the normality of the current music scene and raises the question: â€œholy shit, did they just do that?â€Â
Itâ€™s that crucial 1-2 punch opener that distinguishes a good album from a superb album; and the Display Team fall heavily into the latter category. The immediate blast of noise that is opening track ‘Worry-Spongeâ€™ is sledgehammer of sound. The crash of guitar chords, mixed with the thunderous drumming and reckless brass is the equivalent of The Display Team chasing you down the street like rage-infected zombies. It gets the adrenalin pumping through your body; your heart racing with unnatural speed as well as the fear of whatâ€™s lurking around the corner. What is skulking in the shadows is the ‘twoâ€™ punch in the form of ‘Gnaw The Iron Pawâ€™; a snotty barrel roll of disgruntled punk rock, which seems to tell the story of dismantling an old regime to be replaced with another. From one perspective, the talk of ‘tear up the blueprintsâ€™ and ‘dismantle everything and start againâ€™ (which is shouted with such jovial glee) is reflective of The Display Teamâ€™s music in a way. They are rethinking; reworking music we listen to and are striving to create something that will in their own words, ‘upset the see-saw!â€™ The fact that it sounds like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones trading song structures and time changes with some math rock band who have decided to start a part-time barbershop quartet just adds to how the rules are transforming.
Third track, ‘Norwegian Honeyâ€™ (which details the humorous stalking antics of an obsessive Scandinavian beauty) runs at a completely different pace when compared to the thrashing sounds of the opening salvo. Whilst the jaunt is still there, it staggers drunkenly between exuberant swing music and ‘Rock The Plankâ€™-era Mad Caddies pirate ska. It even manages to shoehorn in some classic rock guitar squeals and short passages of ambient jazz and the odd shot of dancehall for good measure. From this description you may be thinking that it sounds like a jumbled mess of incoherent sounds, but in the hands of The Display Team, it morphs into a whimsical and vibrant shanty.
The freight train barrage soon slides back on to the rails in the form of ‘Check Up (From The Neck Up)â€™ which seems to tell the story of a deranged lunatic and a cry for said maniac to seek professional help; whilst the band crash their way through 3 minutes of stop-start jagged rock, distorted brass and anthemic backing vocal screams. ‘Body Rentingâ€™ treads uneven ground between Patton-style violent mood swings of grimey punk rock, with the multi-vocal attack sounding like a pack of excited monkeys jabbering with malicious intent behind the snapping and sarcastic dual leads.
Whilst ‘Karmaâ€™s Gonna Get You (Filthy Scum)â€™ manages to create a derisive and mocking tone; ‘Pitfalls of Politenessâ€™ takes a trip to the circus via a local jazz recital and a marching band. It sounds like something that should be sound-tracking The Ren and Stimpy show if John Kricfalusi was ever allowed to make and release more episodes. Whilst it starts as something quite innocent (much like the aforementioned Hoek and J Cat described above) it soon descends into rasping depravity in the closing 20 seconds â€â€œ a moment in music that should most definitely be longer and played at maximum volume.
The swing element returns in the form of ‘A Pathetic Pillâ€™ â€â€œ the bigger brother track of ‘Norwegian Honey.â€™ The Display Teamâ€™s attempt to stuff as much into this track as possible is staggering â€â€œ one moment it lurches from drunken Rocket From The Crypt swami-shredding, to 70s swing rock, to bouncing skacore, spread with a thin layer of skiffle and even Sweep The Leg Johnny jazz-noise disorder. Throughout, the vocals bark, scream, shout, harmonise, rap, and screech with sporadic efficiency and barely-stifled humour.
Remember the Jazz Club sketch from The Fast Show? Well ‘Conjunctivitisâ€™ sounds as if it was lifted directly from the end of one of John Thomsonâ€™s rambling â€œnice!â€Â monologues as he turns to introduce the band. It also conjures up images of The 13th Duke of Wymbourne sliding into view, glass of brandy in one hand, cigarette in the other and a sinister look on his moustached face. This would soundtrack his dashing escapades like a bizarre cross between Richard Cheese and NOFX.
‘A Letter To Russiaâ€™ closes ‘Dronesâ€™ in a bombardment of frantic horn blasts, jagged guitars and Patton-style vocal gurgling. The track focuses on two different points of view â€â€œ the first being school girl Samantha Smithâ€™s letter to Yuri Andropov (Soviet Communist Secretary) detailing her fear of nuclear war between America and Russia. The second part of the song is Andropovâ€™s reply, telling her not to panic and how his country are trying to prevent conflict between the two powers and his decision to invite Sammy to visit the Soviet Union. Out of the 12 tracks on ‘Dronesâ€™, ‘A Letter To Russiaâ€™ is easily the best both lyrically and vocally. The decision to touch on such subject matter with a slight tongue-in-cheek approach draws similarities with the lyrical content and style of Keep It Fast favourites, Down I Go. This kind of ‘condensed history reportâ€™ in a song is a worthy addition to The Display Teamâ€™s arsenal of talent and one they should consider repeating on future releases.
If we look back to the painting analogy for a second; it is clear that ‘Dronesâ€™ prints the word ‘FUNâ€™ in massive letters, the size of a Donald Trump skyscraper. Iâ€™m going to throw out one of those tired music journalism clichÃƒÂ©s even though I donâ€™t want to, but the fact is, The Display Team create some of the most unique and interesting music that strictly refuses to be pigeonholed or even stay still for more than a second. ‘Dronesâ€™ is an incredible musical journey of revolutionary sounds and is a debut that I imagine all 6 band members loved and I mean, loved making.
By Ross Macdonald