By Jordan Mooney.
Where does one go for a new sight? Or a new taste? A new sound? We’ve often theorised that the best place is Whitby Goth Weekend, and it’s at the Spa in April 2016 that we first met the impenetrable power of Hands Off Gretel. Now, the Riotous, raucous and unhinged opus of Lauren Tate‘s work has strode back into Cat on the Wall’s Quarters, and for the first time we’ve got some proper recorded material to dive into and treat with our usual toothcomb.
Hands Off Gretel are a great way of proving what we’ve been saying for ever-so-long – bands are brands, and require a strong image to run alongside them. The group have this to a tee; it’s part and parcel, and the band’s visual identity of bright colours and snappy, youthful designs provide a great aside to music’s variety and charisma. We thought, from the off, there was great potential. We underestimated them…
Burn The Beauty Queen acts like a technicolour blender. It fuses everything you might seek from a young alternative band that can cater to younger audiences as capably as the jaded old bastards. Or, alternatively, jaded young bastards… like me.
There’s a real raw, vicious but impeccably fun-loving angle to the group; it all feels somewhat excessive, completely over the top, seething, and, at times, like a bit of particularly bizarre sci-fi.
The amount of sheer personality that’s on display in the record minds me irresistibly of the late Bowie. It feels like a great big chunk of self study – detailed, precise and thought through with the slightest detail laid onto the line – amplified to a logical conclusion, naturally. A flawless caricature of neon and teeth – and just as mature and ahead of its time as he did in his youngest years. (Albeit a pinch louder.)
Catchy riffs, speed, claws and a certain bit of cacophony make up the realm of Gretel on the surface, but there’s a lot more to it than that – the landscape is a decidedly turbulent one. My favourite spots have to be the most varied – and roughly two thirds into the record, the album really kicks into a stride.
A few notches down on the throttle from the runaway wreck of Teethin take us to a smooth, rolling curve with Little Man. It climbs again to rougher, craggier terrain with Always Right – then flattens again to a slightly more predictable series of humps and turns with World Against She. The album is about as smooth as the Yorkshire Dales; it’s craggy, covered in brambles and thorns – but by the time you’re at the highest point you’re surrounded by an environment you just don’t want to leave. The journey is so exciting and exhilarating that it could treble in length and still be over too quickly.
There’s a real sense of future to Hands Off Gretel – a sense that we’re seeing the beginning of something big, something glamorous and something world beating. There is absolutely nothing to hold it back apart from the music industry’s attitude. There’s no vulnerability, no defeatist sexualisation – no selling out. It’s too personal, and it’s too obviously important to the group to let it fester or sag. Lauren, Sean and Sam are gripping the beast too tightly to let it escape their control, which provides a real pointedness and drive to every note.
It’s all so beautifully handled, all so confident. I feel myself getting a bit emotional about it; a great big hobnailed boot up the arse for the more popular sides of the alternative scene. And, it’s capable of treading over them.
Hands Off Gretel are more than a band; they’re a living, breathing timebomb, just waiting for that final switch to rocket them to where they should be. All of the artistic maturity – and youthful creativity – is pumping in its cables and tubes. We just need that final strike on the great electrode.
I was not expecting the record to beat my impressions of Hands Off Gretel when I first saw them live; this album makes everything so far feel like a warm up. I’m not just enjoying the music – I’m excited for it.
Burn The Beauty Queen is set for release on September the 16th.