Wednesday, July 27, 2011

from Witney, UK.
Taz Corona-Brown: Vocals and lead guitars;
Hel Sterne: Vocals and guitars;
Olly Corona-Brown: Bass;
Tom McKibbin: Drums.

Sometimes, ignorance is not bliss. I had never heard of Undersmile before the dynamic duo of Matt Hopkins and Josh Retallick invited them to play the first edition of their amazing Seven Churches festival, replacing Jucifer who had their tour cancelled. That felt like a bummer at first, as I am a fan of Jucifer, but that was just my ignorance talking. On the morning of the Seven Churches day, Matt decided to show me who these people were, so he took out a lovely digipak with creepy cartoony drawings, called 'A Sea Of Dead Snakes'. Before he even put it on, I was convinced. A band whose first song on their first EP is called 'Instrumenstrual' has just got to kick ass. That first listen was merely a confirmation, one which was reinforced quite strongly a few hours after with the band's performance at the festival.

Undersmile are unusual, you see. The two frontwomen, Hel and Taz appear on stage with babydoll dresses looking like they've just come up from a serial killer basement in the 50s, and then they proceed to drop their morose vocal harmonies on you as if they're not even caring. Or even there at all. They basically stare blankly at the ceiling, a totally emotionless performance that fits the remorseless heaviness of the music perfectly. While you're staring at the girls, Olly and Tom are doing all the dirty grunt-work in the shadows, a monster rhythm section where the strange greyness of the girls' performance rests.

Ever since I first heard them I've been trying to come up with a comfortable way to explain what they sound like and I'm still coming up empty. On the review of the festival for Terrorizer magazine, I described 'Cutters Choice', the coolest song on that EP, as something along the lines of "a lost grunge classic being gang-raped by Electric Wizard and Swans," which, though colourful and somewhat close if you can actually imagine it, doesn't really cut it. It's the best I can do though, so you'll have to go and listen to that EP, and while you're at it pre-order their new split with Caretaker here, not only is Caretaker yet another band you should be aware of, but the two huge (12 minutes each) Undersmile songs there, 'Big Wow' and 'Anchor', hit you harder and lower even than anything on 'Sea Of Dead Snakes', a remarkable progression for the young band. I swear I don't get commission, but do get a t-shirt while you're there too. The design reminds me of 'Through Silver In Blood', which can only be a good omen.

Oh and if you're wondering about the band name...

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