Damn Vandals released their debut EP, The Beautiful Mind, on 27 February. With members hailing from London, Oxford, Sheffield and Northern Ireland, they’ve been together for just two years and already attracted the attention of BBC6 Music’s Shaun Keavney and NME Radio among others.
They describe themselves as taut, post-punk rock with vocals reminiscent of Ian Curtis and David Bowie, and their debut certainly lives up to this. Singer Jack Kansas has a deep, powerful voice that adds a melancholy darkness to their powerful melodies. They’re not afraid of employing tried-and-tested techniques and combining them with their own up-front rawness to make a sound that’s part rock, part sludge and part progressive punk.
Title track Beautiful Mind has verses that are softly growled over a one-note bassline and build up to a loud, guitar heavy chorus. Lyrics such as ‘the red-blooded son of the earth’ hark back to days of Nineties grunge where greats such as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden often used powerful metaphors. The end of the song is firmly set in that era, with a guitar solo that gives way to an explosion of crashing cymbals.
He Pulls A Knife displays the sparse texture that may have given rise to comparisons with Joy Division. The melody of the chorus echoes through the mind for quite some time after listening, and wouldn’t sound out of place reverberating around a packed stadium. Union Jack Boxes has Kansas angrily proclaiming to be “sick of your love” over a very Seventies-sounding clean guitar melody.
The last track, Trouble With Jesus, is a more upbeat number. The intro could lend itself to something by Jeff Beck or early Guns ‘n’ Roses, but their sparsesound and gravely production is more garage blues than classic rock. It’s the only track that sounds a tad outdated and it seems that Kansas’s voice is more suited to the moodier nature of the previous three tracks. Nevertheless, this is a promising EP that unites influences from all over the rock spectrum, and suggests that by the time they release an album in summer, Damn Vandals will have really come into their own.
Thea de Gallier