Review Summary: A bulky yet malleable sound that can turn on a hatpin from blistering punk rock to smooth, jazzy post-rock, and from taut, melodic dance rock to brutish mosh metal.
There’s a funny thing about the name Bats. You’d think there’d be more bands with that name. But there are not. It’s also only like three letters away from batsh
it, which is a pretty good description of the one true Bats- a five-winged alternative hardcore creation with day jobs, sensible haircuts and strong opinions on the evolution. Oh, and a rather ripping debut EP entitled Cruel Sea Scientist
Released on the fledgling Armed Ambitions/Organised Ideas label, which also boasts acclaimed breakcore artist Herv and post-everything act Adebisi Shanks among its ranks, Cruel Sea Scientists
is the group’s first release since getting together early last year. The presence of three guitarists and bassist Timmy Moran provide the group with a bulky yet malleable sound that can turn on a hatpin from blistering punk rock to smooth, jazzy post-rock, and from taut, melodic dance rock to brutish mosh metal. Singer Rupert Morris, who also comprises one-quarter of Bats’ multi-pronged guitar attack, remains arguably the group’s main focal point, his versatile range extending from nervy tenor to comic falsetto to a strained shriek reminiscent either of Circle Takes The Square’s Drew Speziale or Sesame Street’s Grover. Take your pick, honestly.
The five-track (or four-movement) EP opens with the wonderfully reserved ‘Kent Hovind Must Die,’ a no-holds-barred assault on the unfortunate figurehead of Young Earth Creationism. Clocking in at just over a minute and a half, it begins with the band members trading nondescript screams before resolving to a doomy heavy metal verse. The chorus is reminiscent of Mike Patton’s most famous admirers Dog Fashion Disco, a fairly good allegory for the band as a whole, as it happens. Richly embellished though it is, were it broken down ‘Death To Kent Hovind’ would make a pretty awesome hardcore song, packed full of infectious gang melodies and vitriolic sentiments, as Morris directs his frankly unnecessary, but also quite hilarious, bile toward the 58-time felon: “Fuck you Kent / You’re fucking dangerous / And Bats will destroy you.”
‘Death To Kent Hovind,’ though a mere snapshot of the group’s capabilities, is typical of the approach Bats take throughout the EP. Structurally, the tracks are relatively simple and straightforward, but through a wide diffusion of styles and not inconsiderable instrumental prowess, they confer upon the songs a personality and vitality all of their own. ‘These Ones Lay Eggs’ and ‘Husband & Wife (Sliced Lung, Served Cold’) expand the blueprint, the former opening with a razor-sharp jazzy guitar motif reminiscent of the Redneck Manifesto before becoming gradually heavier and more disparate. Closer ‘Atom & Eve’ exhibits the same tendencies with a more poppy disposition and yet more lyrics about evolution: “I used my laser vision / I used my microscope / And now we’ve beat selection for better or for worse.”
At less than sixteen minutes, Cruel Sea Scientist
is just a smidge unsatisfying, if only because it begs to last longer. Question marks remain over the group’s originality: both instruments and vocals sound a little too imitative of their influences at some points, whether it’s the Blood Brothers-like call-and-response routine and funky hardcore riffs, the Todd Smith-like spoken passages, but these inconsistencies will surely be ironed out over time and Cruel Sea Scientist
will be remembered as a rough but eminently replayable slice of premium musicosity.