As you may have worked out I have something of a thing about psychedelic garage grunge bands. It’s those waves of sweet noise that wash over you. It’s immersive, it takes you completely out of the stress and anxiety of everyday life into a world of whirling swirling sound. It’s more than a thing; it’s a yen, a need, an addiction.
People, and you know who are, have said to me ‘but it all sounds the same’ (People, other people, used to say the same to me about some of the extreme metal bands I listened to in my youth). My response is, and was back in the day, to say ‘but they don’t, you’re not listening properly’. So to take a trio of bands as examples; DENSE add a dash of acid rock, dark psychedelia and garage, Fuzz Lightyear a sprinkling of post-punk and metal, and Brooder hard riffing grunge. – you see not the same at all.
Femur – the second to last band I saw and reviewed before lockdown, and what a gig that was, one of my all time favs – do psychedelic grunge; there’s more to them than that but that’s the basics.
‘Misery Express’ is frankly terrifying. There’s no other way of putting it. That is, of course, terrifying in a fantastic way. It opens in a kind of sludgy way, a guitar on the edge of falling apart, but that’s just the calm before the storm. It bursts into something akin to psychedelic speed punk; it’s loud, guitars lose the plot, vocals come at you in a way that reminds me of the MC5. And then it just falls into a woozy psychedelic section; languid voices, a rather lovely female vocal sound in the style of Gong. And then bursts into life, to be replaced by another woozy psychedelic section that, somewhat surprisingly, degenerates into what I can only describe as a football chant, before it bursts into wild noise again.
Taken in sections it sounds a mess but as a whole it isn’t. The whole is magical, chaotic, wonderfully unpolished. And all that with references to trains, although I’m not entirely sure that’s what the song is about. The video helps, people, honest it does.
It’s raw, it’s rough, it’s bloody feral, it’s one part psychedelic proto-punk and one part out-there acid driven psychedelia. It’s music made because that’s what the band like doing, and it sounds like it does because that’s what they want it to sound like. It sounds like they’ve barely rehearsed it at some points, but it isn’t, there’s a structure, a method behind the madness of sound.
And yes, if you wanted to make the grunge thing comparison; it’s there, just in a rather out-there and mutated way. So mutated you have to listen really hard to get it. A hint, just listen to the way the song’s fast and slow sections are put together.
‘Misery Express’ is a joy, a beautiful trip. It sits on the outer outer edges of the musical universe of psychedelic garage grunge, it’s a hard place to get to, but the effort is worth it. I fucking love this song. Get on board that Femur train right now.
Sheffield’s Femur consists of Felix Renshaw (Vocals/Guitar), Ed Burks (Guitar), Ryan Gillvray (Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals) and Danny Cox (Drums). The 4-piece have gained quite the reputation since their inception by repeatedly destroying each and every UK stage they get their claws into, having caused chaos at the likes of Shacklewell Arms (London), Night & Day Cafe (Manchester) and their beloved and hardened Washington (Sheffield).
The band were lucky enough to have squeezed in a full UK tour ending just days before the dreaded lockdown, which saw a number of venues falling victim to their sonic lunacy. With the absence of live gigging temporarily halting the ever-powerful ‘Femur’ train, the group are ready and waiting with their foot on the accelerator to get back to what they do best. Frontman Felix explains: ‘we thrive in the underground, packed to the rafters, sweat-pit venues, and we feel that that is where our sound and energy comes across best’. Although the full ‘Femur’ experience may be impossible right now, ‘Misery Express’ and its accompanying video is undoubtedly the closest thing to it.