There’s much been said about the classic Side 1 Track 1s of musical history, and rightly so. However – and this my be a bit weirdly compulsive of me – when I have a quick sample of something completely new to me, it’s not the first track I head for. Instead, I decide on blind buys on the strength of a record’s second piece; introductions are all well and good, but I prefer to take in the song where the artists have already drawn in their audience having got their attention, and are now having to keep it for the remainder of the album. Track 2 is where the work starts, and it’s a method that’s served me well. That this particular record contains one of the best second tracks of any record I’ve stumbled across lately should therefore come as little surprise after that buildup.
I must admit to not knowing an awful lot about what goes on behind the scenes at The Revival Hour, other than there’s two of them, and come from a background of strict religious upbringings. Their name suggests that they haven’t completely left that aspect out entirely, and their music certainly has certain evangelical qualities, but Scorpio Little Devil seems to be more about getting as far away from their previous constraints as loudly and vividly as possible.
There are many touchstones visited throughout, and more than a few of these are done simultaneously and rather chaotically. Opener Control is evocative of a curious Diagrams/Radiohead hybrid, Pyre has a whiff of Timber Timbre about it, Clean sounds not unlike an experimental Peter Gabriel/Brian Eno collaboration and Copperhouse comes across as a very strange and frightening mix of Sparks and the Flaming Lips. There is a moment or two of strange calm found in Riverbody, where David Stith’s vocals whirr around high above the gentle strings and sombre pace of the song in an otherworldly falsetto (a recurring feature of the record) and in the dreamlike and portentous I’ve Eyed The Beast, but it’s mostly an oppressive mix of electronics, gospel and general percussive arrhythmia that disorientates and disturbs throughout.
The standout track however is the previously-mentioned second cut Hold Back, a stunning gospel-led tune with Southern Gothic overtones that wouldn’t be spiritually out of place on the second Soulsavers record. The arrangement on this song is fantastic, driven by choir and strings, and as fine a song as I could wish to hear all year, a song that rises and rises and that creates the gravity that the rest of the album can happily and soulfully revolve around.
Ultimately, it’s one of those records that sounds on paper as if it has no Earthly right to hold itself together at all, but does so wonderfully in spite of any rational (or otherwise) attempts to try to describe it. There are bits that could be isolated and played on the radio at any time of day, and others that could guarantee sleepless nights hidden away under the bed. As a whole, it’s something that is unafraid to shine a light into those dark corners to confront the shadows, embrace what needs to be embraced there and banish what remains. Not always the most comfortable of listens, but it’s enthralling throughout and has already become a firm favourite of mine.