Review Summary: Frenzied cathartic bliss for your souls
Last night I had a dream about The Fall of Troy in which they happened to play a gig in a hotel at which I was on holiday with my family. It was a pretty sporadic affair; I walked into the bar at late evening and the next thing I knew I was talking to Thomas Erak about something now beyond my memory. The band started up and played most of Chapter V: The Walls Bled Lust
, but the whole thing quickly plummeted as they started sabotaging their own sound system and screwing around with the audience so that it turned into an experience not dissimilar from being driven in an uncomfortable automobile and being subjected to a poorly tuned radio that blasts out a vast amount of static and oscillates volume randomly. My friends and family started asking me “Serge, who the hell are these guys, and why were you so excited for them?” and I felt horribly awkward. All I could conjure up as a response was along the lines of “…they’re total wankers, but they have cool riffs and they’re good fun.” Past this, all I can remember was turning my attention back to the band’s performance, which had reached the point of Erak dropping his guitar and playing some kind of keyboard lick, probably the strange flute-esque section from the bridge of the version Mouths Like Sidewider Missiles
on this album. I understand that my writing is usually littered with untruths and exaggerations, but I promise you that this dream actually happened. Its meaning and significance should become clear over the course of this review.
The Fall of Troy are a post-hardcore band who play a very distinctive style that is most notable for frontman Thomas Erak’s acrobatic guitar riffs that make efficient use of the majority of the fretboard, and for the frantic energy that they cram into every song, not only through their aforementioned riffs but also through odd rhythms and curious metrical play, the latter of which has resulted in their regular misclassification as ‘mathcore’. Their sophomore album, Doppelganger, is arguably their best full-length. Although it is undoubtedly the most metrically diverse album they have recorded to date and the riffs are as consistently excellent as Erak ever managed to hone them, there is a very specific reason why I have decided to attribute this album with higher status than the rest of the their discography. This status isn’t particularly high, given that the band’s other LPs are composed of their self-titled debut, which was allegedly recorded with paint stripper in place of microphones, In the Unlikely Event, which is probably the music that I would make if I were in a washed-up emo band and could play guitar and liked to pretend that I was a diva of ballistic magnitude, and then finally Manipulator, which is like In the Unlikely Event but with crustaceans and a few throwbacks to the days of paint stripping.
In any case, the reason that Doppelganger stands on another level is that Thomas Erak’s vocal chords were still intact at this stage, this being the only stage at which he recorded an album that had decent production before his habits of chain smoking and of impersonating Nina Simone came to an unhealthy collision. The result of this is that The Fall of Troy’s sense of balladry was at its finest, and Doppelganger is all the better for it. The Holy Tape
, Wacko Jacko Steals the Elephant Man’s Bones
and Act One, Scene One
all exhibit profound soulfulness that one would be unsurprised to find on a Radiohead album, but they do so latently and maintain energetic aggression on the surface, only just letting on that an abyss of desperation and disturbed passion lies beneath, whether it is in the loss of control surrounding carnal frenzy in Act One
, the bemused outrage at celebrity impunity in Wacko Jacko
or the colossal tantrum of astrological value in The Holy Tape
. Finally, We Better Learn To Hotwire a Uterus
was probably the greatest non-commercial melodic song since One Armed Scissor
(it has since been overthrown by Goldfrapp’s Rocket
), speaking both in terms of hooks and in songwriting. Simultaneous analysis of the three should show this quite clearly, as it not only exposes the outstanding composition but also the way in which each song reacts to its spiritual predecessor. Therefore:
One Armed Scissor: 3/4 for the first verse, otherwise 4/4 with occasional 5/4 interplay. A sensible foundation that allows for consistent rhythms and therefore groove.
We Better Learn To Hotwire A Uterus: mainly 3/4 or 4/4 throughout, but with many short sections in 7/8, 5/8. Shows transcendence of the firm rhythmic basis of One Armed Scissor in favour of a dynamic, seemingly sporadic approach that maintains consistency in places; in other words, a perfect compromise between absorbable rhythms and calculated intensity.
Rocket: 4/4 throughout. A deliberate regression upon The Fall of Troy’s adventurous spirit that recognises that the chaos cannot be taken further whilst remaining accessible. However, the syncopated variation of the main synth line shows subtle rhythmic play and compositional maturity.
One Armed Scissor: “Dissect a trillion sighs away/Will you get this letter? Jagged pulp sliced in my veins/I write to remember.”
A characteristically cathartic explosion of emotion that is too obscurely phrased for the listener to be able to relate completely, yet still facilitates strong sentimental connection.
We Better Learn How to Hotwire a Uterus: “Saliva swapping tonsil hockey trollop/Accompanied by operatic coitus/Accompanied by mal de mer/And a jaded disposition.”
Immediately relatable imagery of a woman of ill repute; The Fall of Troy employ similar sporadic lyrics to At The Drive-In, but their enigmatic value lies in the phrasing of their imagery, rather than the image itself. It is fairly easy to absorb what Erak is screaming about, but he confuses the listener with the way he presents it, whereas One Armed Scissor is the other way round.
Rocket: “Oo-oo-ooh I got a rocket/Oo-oo-ooh you’re going on it/Oo-oo-ooh you’re never coming back.”
Once again, enigmatic value is championed, this time by references to an unknown future of abrupt departure, yet this vast concept is portrayed very simply, resulting in a perfect blend of complexity and accessibility that the preceding songs sought by sporadic elements.
If subsemanticist nihilism holds, we have to choose between predialectic deappropriation and the neocapitalist paradigm of context. The Fall of Troy treated this, quite wisely, as a Gordian knot and sliced it to pieces with Doppelganger, which remains an album of aggressive adventure rather than compromise, as exemplified in the One Armed Scissor/We Better Learn To Hotwire A Uterus/Rocket progression that underpins popular music. If it hasn’t already become obvious, the relevance of my dream was that the emotional quality of music often results in sonic interference. The Fall of Troy realised this and condensed this interference with distortion, screaming and complicated riffs and rhythms, and the result – at least, on this album – is truly sublime.