Cassels – Epithet (Big Scary Monsters – Oct 2017)
Low-Fi and lairy punk from an unlikely birthplace
Having released a series of outstanding singles and EPs over the last few years, Oxfordshire two-piece Cassels have finally released their debut full length album, Epithet. The band describe themselves as “a two piece comprised of two brothers”, however, they insist, “neither of these facts should be considered noteworthy”. From the get go its seems as if they are keen to distance themselves from the recent swathe of two piece bands (Royal Blood, Slaves, Blood Red Shoes, Japandroids…) coming out of the indie music scene whilst simultaneously denying any charge of gimmickry which may stem from the fact that they are siblings. For Cassels music is all about authenticity, and on Epithet, it shines through in abundance.
On the face of it, Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire seems an unlikely stomping ground for a band with such an aggressive, antagonistic sound. Famously home to, among others, Jeremy Clarkson, David Cameron and Rebekah Brookes, the town is well known for its wealthy inhabitants. However, as it became painfully clear following the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier this year, next to extreme wealth you will often find people who are struggling to get by. It is precisely this disparity which fuels Cassels’ attack on Epithet. “Every tweed-clad soul I despise and hate” are the words which open the album’s lead single “Where Baseball Was Invented”, a scathing criticism of wealth inequality in the band’s hometown. Elsewhere on the album this social commentary is alive and well, the opening track “Coup” speaking to a culture of apathy which is worryingly prevalent in today’s society. The repeated line “We are living in a Huxleyan nightmare” is an eerie and unnerving wake up call to the indifferent and the apathetic (thank God they didn’t say “Orwellian”).
Musically the duo’s sound is constructed from Low-Fi fuzzy guitar sounds mixed with surprisingly and pleasingly intricate lead parts played over the top of eclectic drumming which shifts between tempos and dynamic spaces with ease. The most important thing though is, undeniably, the lyrics, the old punk adage that “ideas are more important than guitar solos” proudly ringing true here. Chief lyricist Jim Beck describes his aspirations towards the poetic on the album: “There’s the old cliché that good lyrics stand up on a page without music, but in reality I don’t think many read well at all. At some point I made the conscious decision to try and write words which could be read in isolation without them being obviously identifiable as being from a song.”
Like The Clash before them, Cassels have created a brash, unapologetic but, most importantly, un-ignorable rallying cry for the nation’s bored and angry youth, one which will cement them as crucial listening for the years of political uncertainty to come.
Cassels are touring UK in November supporting Single Mothers
Review by Jonny Cloke