|3||Flowerpots, Electric Beds||5:20|
|4||This Is The||5:01|
|8||Rock Hudson Tragedy||4:08|
In a time where everyone from Whitney Houston to Frank Zappa have been re-created in hologram form, where Grimes recently suggested in an interview that “we were at the end of human art”; there could scarcely be a better time for genre-shifting Leeds-based six-piece Team Picture to bring forth the thrillingly expansive synth-pop opus of their debut album The Menace of Mechanical Music.
Inspired by an early 20th century essay under the same name by American marching band leader John Philip Sousa, Team Picture take a look at the automation of creativity on this, their first record with a fully settled line up. Themes centre around the value of creative identity in an automated age, the increasingly disposable nature of art and where that leaves its creators. At twelve songs split into a three-part suite; The Menace of Mechanical Music is emphatically maximalist.
Tracks like the breathy, twinkling Flowerpots, Electric Beds and Handsome Machines’ Icarus-like striving for the sun are an antidote to a music world awash with digital production manipulation and songs written to algorithm. In debating the loosening of the human grip on creativity, Team Picture have poured every last drop of emotion into the recording process.
The group’s now trademark three-way vocal delivery and blurring of textures takes on new structure and purpose. They’ve always had a self-awareness to themselves, too. Initially grouped in with the guitar psych crowd, thanks to their fledgling repeato-rock, they were quick to disassociate themselves from that on 2018's mini-album Recital. With The Menace of Mechanical Music, they expand their sound further still, pirouetting from the likes of Sleeptype Auction – which glimmers like a late 80’s 4AD artefact – through various FX-laden dreamscapes, to the squelchy post-punk of closer Quit Reading. Yet the group were as much influenced by the work of the Early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch, and his triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, as they were music touchstones ranging from Kate Bush, Cass McCombs and The Cure.
It’s Sousa words that resonate most deeply within the record however: “The fears of Sousa echo the fears of today's musician,” says Lewis of the late band leader’s 1907 text. “The re-appropriation of funds and support that the artist needs to survive, the gradual erosion of musicianship and self-improvement, that art will become disposable, and that our cultural identity will disappear.”
Recorded with producer Matt Peel (W.H Lung, Eagulls), half the group were unemployed during the session and a daily routine would see them undertake universal credit meetings and job interviews in the morning, before heading to the studio to work into the night. “It was an anxious process but an enjoyable one” says the band’s guitarist Josh Lewis. Indeed, beyond the increasingly golden gated idea of ‘making it’ as an artist, this new album is simply about surviving as one. Sousa’s vision of a society that had deferred to automation, where babies were rocked to sleep by wheels and pulleys, and people no longer played piano with their own hands. Well over 100 years later and on the precipice of a technological shift never seen before, The Menace of Mechanical Music is the most human response that Team Picture could have given.
"A fluid, elegant record. An escapist gem, 9/10" Loud & Quiet
"thrilling, rich, innovative and satisfyingly danceable, 4/5" Q Magazine
“...reaches to the stars and up the back of your spine” The Line Of Best Fit