A horrible hack


Highway to Health

Year Released: 2011
Format: CD
Label: Head Records
Reviewed by Michael McCann on Nov 20, 2011
Biff. Baf. Biff. Baf. CHIK-A-CHIK CHIK. Boff-boff-boff - - - boff-boff-boff-boff-boff-boff!

Is that the sound of Greek dishes being washed? No! Is that the sound of grandma falling down the stairs? Sadly not! Is that the sound of my brain ceasing to come up with any other suitably obtuse ideas to describe music? Guess again dipshit, it's the sound of Pneu performing a batch of their pnew! hit tunes off the album Highway to Health. It seems like they've done away with a lot the French titles and song names on this release, presumably, in an attempt to seem less French, which is understandable. We all know that everybody hates the French, even the French themselves. Opting instead for titles such as Grill your Eyes and Autosafe Unicorn and the title track, all of which are completely devoid of any wine list, beret wearing, clove hanging, jizz painting, bicycle stealing, baguette buttering suggestion. They ain't lost it all mind, Batatanana sounds almost damningly French, but as much as I know (which isn't very much indeed!) this has only been released on a French record label thus far.

It's difficult not to compare this to their previous release Pince Monseigneur. When I first heard Pince my penis exploded and my bollocks dropped right orf. But let us not dwell on the past and the horrors of vaginal reconstruction I hear you say! You know, it should be about the now and present, man! And yet it's so easy and fun to dwell on the past, as it is to dwell upon vaginal reconstruction too! So yeah, anyway, it was recommended to me by a friend who was more au fait (unintentional French!) with the music and, as a result, new age surgery than I was at the time. Still is; down with the kids. That isn't to say that he rides around in an ice creme truck made out of dead Mexicans, selling funky skateboards to midwives. Regardless of your opinion on my friend, I don't think I'd heard much else like it. It was kind of like Hella to me but it also had this romantic bent, yet the pace and originality at which some of the ideas produced themselves was confusing and arousing. Kind of like a sweet ass game of Sudoku. Subsequently we went to go and see them live and it's one of the best live shows that I've seen in my life.

Highway to Health is a different bag of apples. It didn't have quite the same feel or, I'm reticent to say, magic as the first. It is indeed pace-er-riffic, like its predecessor, clocking in at 26.48 total minutes - Note that I may not feel the same way about Pince anymore and it's entirely possible that it just caught me at the right moment in time and that this whole bullshit hyperbole can be chalked right up right against that. Maybe it's even that I am just overly familiar with the Artist formally known as Prince and therefore less surprised by what they do. I don't know, I JUST DON'T KNOW! But this one seemed a bit more cock sure; brash, even, on initial survey. Certainly it's more straight up rockin' from the get go. Perhaps even a little bit anthemic in places. That's probably too far. Yeah, it's too far. I'VE GONE TOO FAR! I didn't really get to know Highway to Health until I copied the album to a cassette tape and cranked it whilst driving around in my mothers Renault Megane, alone. Those initial impressions quickly dissipated. This, I'm pretty sure, is how Pneu intended for their music to be consumed anyway, on a cassette tape in a Megane. And as it turns out it's pretty fucking great driving music. It's pretty fucking great music, full stop. Period. Ampersand. Jonquil.

It's difficult not to be sold after about 2 minutes into the album opener, or at least by the time the slightly cheesy but catchy guitar breakdown in the second track happens. One particular high point, Grill Your Eyes, is a cheeky wink towards Shield Your Eyes, whom they obviously share a mutual loving relationship with. (On a side note, I've always wondered if Shield Your Eyes is a reference to a Polvo lyric?) It's all rather oiled and done-performed with aplomb. And I haven't mentioned the riff on Choux Crane yet! Some of the guitar sounds they've got on this album are really quite enjoyable also. Stuff like the squeaking on Clapasetsu, the end noise of Batatanana and that weird sweeping part on closer Wagy's Cup, all stellar artios moments. There is a bit of looping too that occurs across the board and is hard to decipher if it's some recording trickery or overdubbed, whatever. Moot point though beacause I haven't paid enough attention in school to be honest. Speaking of loops though, Tropicon, one of the albums surprises, turns out to be a whole song based on a loop, and most pleasant it is as well. Another of Highway to Health's surprise star turns is the existence of vocals on one song! Not just any vocals though, it be the cords of Eugene S. Robinson of Oxbow fame! Pretty sweet, eh?

There's something about Pneu and by distinction Highway to Health that I can't really put into words. About just the way they go about doing things, and the choices in which they make; the roads or highways in which they take. HO HO, enough of that, cheeky! Choices, musically or otherwise, in terms of song directions and other things like the artwork, something just overall flat-out appeals. Artwork I haven't mentioned yet, but it's probably some of my favourite I've seen on a cover this year. And along with all that they still show off some desire for progression and a willingness for new ideas, if not that drastic, but still make Pneu, errr, uhm, good! I want more French in my life. I want to drink more Chartreuse. I miss it.

This review is dedicated to Yass “coolface” Yasstopferson. 1761-2013

We hardly knew ye'!

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