1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 196

Rave to the Grave, by China Shop Bull
Suggested by John Ingham

Originally, John suggested an album that’s yet to be released. In doing this, he had me jump to a number of conclusions.

First, I figured that John might be a Time Traveller. I dismissed this quickly, as I’ve never seen John in a police box, DeLorean or hot tub. Next, I assumed he must be a fell sorcerer of some kind, able to conjure music from the aether. This is more believable, as his nickname is Wizbit, but I reluctantly abandoned that too. Lastly, I concluded he was an Ulrich-baiting Napster-style torrenter, which is not only untrue but besmirches his fine character, and thus I must apologise.

The boring reality was the album was set for imminent release at Suggestion Time, but has subsequently been pushed back. It’s now waiting in the wings, to be readded to the Masterlist once it’s hit the virtual shelves.

In its place, John slipped me a new suggestion… Rave to the Grave, by China Shop Bull.

In making this choice, John had the benefit of perfect timing. Having followed the reviews thus far, he could largely pick an album which would hit my aural sweet spots. No growl, no hip hop, no Barbara Streisand. Was he successful?

Partly.

China Shop Bull are a shouty Northern rock / punk act with an angry tone and a brass section. They are energetic and direct, delivering brassy and brazen bursts that punch your face and get you dancing. There’s a certain menace to the sound, likely springing from the horn section, which invokes a secret agent vibe replete with edge and intrigue.

There’s a double duty rap vocal at play on each track, which is interesting, at first. Both voices have a Northern twang, which is refreshing, and from what I can make out, their lyrics are awash with a working class sensibility, another added bonus. My issue is that their delivery is rather one-dimensional… it’s too shouty.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with shouting. Shouting is not growling. Unfortunately, two people rap-shouting over a full and fat punk-metal-brass musical chonk needs a certain application of post-production to avoid it becoming largely incomprehensible, and Rave to the Grave does not have the required clean sheen. That may be by design, as courting rawness is a fair choice too, but either way it left me straining. I felt that I was craning to hear a song being sung in another room at times.

Some lyrics, however, I could consume… but whether I could stomach them is a different story. The otherwise excellent Dirty Weekend had me shaking my disappointed head a few times. Perhaps they are being ironic (don’t you think?), but it felt too bludgeoning to be so nuanced. Voyeurvision had me similarly confused, as I’m sure the singer was discussing goldfish jizz at some point.

There is stuff to like on this album. The first three songs are great, especially my standout Serotonin Bomb, and the overall aesthetic is focused and fiery one. I feel with an added spit and polish, and maybe an industrial sander taken to the more jagged edges, this could be something very special. But as it stands, Rave to the Grave gets 6/10.

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