By Kris Pugh
You could spend hours of your life trying to pinpoint the exact moment that defines a scene. Was it Korn or Limp Bizkit that truly birthed nu metal? If Green Day never released Dookie, would pop punk even exist today? These questions are almost unanswerable, with 20 counter-arguments for every valid point.
However, within the confines of modern British rock this discussion becomes more clear-cut. Marmozets’ debut record The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets landed with perfect timing. In 2014 it served as a reminder that, somewhere in the bland wilderness of the time, there still lived bands who didn’t feel the need to sound like pristine, computer based projects. It stood tall amongst its peers, and its sheer authenticity was a breath of fresh air to a scene that had been decaying for some time.
Perhaps the greatest metric by which to judge the importance of the quintet’s debut record is the level of influence it had on the scene we see today. Creeper and Milk Teeth have eyes on them from every corner of the industry, and even less widely-accessible bands such as Employed To Serve and Code Orange are garnering attention. They all share one similarity: It all feels like organic music with a backbone. And it’s not a coincidence that this all followed the emergence of Marmozets.
That’s the true beauty of what the band achieved in 2014: they conjured up a sound that brought two ends of the musical spectrum together. At a festival, the opening riff of ‘Born Young And Free’ could get the guy at the back in a letlive. t-shirt to lift his head up, while the vocal layering of ‘Captivate You’ could get the Paramore fan down the front to sing along. And that was just the first roll of the dice for a bunch of twenty-somethings from Yorkshire.
In some ways, Knowing What You Know Now uses the blueprint left by its predecessor to make sensible steps into a broader landscape; in others, it tries to dive in before learning to swim. It’s the Marmozets everyone fell in love with… sort of.
The record gets off to a rampant start. ‘Play’ strikes as a natural successor to TWAW’s ‘Move, Shake, Hide’ – simplistic in its structure, volatile in its delivery, anchored by an outrageously anthemic chorus. ‘Meant To Be’ and ‘Major System Error’ follow suit: it’s hard rock with a chip on its shoulder, and full of tenacious groove.
One of their debut’s most seductive charms was its potent, raw production quality, and that has certainly been maintained on Knowing What You Know Now. Marmozets have a baffling-yet-brilliant knack of getting their sound across with a sense of intimacy that would suggest it was recorded in your grandparents’ garage, but with the proficiency of a multi-million dollar studio.
Early on, the record seems dead-set on the matching the outright destruction caused by its predecessor; that is, until the opening 30 seconds of slow-burning ballad ‘Insomnia’ rears its head. It’s a surprising drop in intensity; Knowing What You Know Now spends the most part of its opening 15 minutes kicking you in the face, but a ballad here feels like odd placement – mostly because it’s a bit too experimental for its own good.
Of course, Marmozets shouldn’t be scolded for trying their hand at something different, but worse than miscalculated experimentation is the one-two of ‘Like A Battery’ and ‘New Religion’. They’re both decent – if fairly forgettable – numbers to nod along to, but that’s not what you’d expect from the band at this point. There’s a sense here that instead of pushing for greatness, the band settled on an idea and didn’t push their creativity to its full potential. Victims of their own quality, merely average Marmozets songs stand out as if they’re covered in luminous paint.
Finding avenues to explore that would be an improvement on The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets while still experimenting was always going to be a hefty task, and it’s one that Marmozets understandably struggle with in places. Never in any doubt however, are the vocals of Rebecca McIntyre. Her dexterous performance on the band’s debut has somehow been improved upon here, with a hint of emotion added to her scathing vocal cuts.
Despite its similar pacing to ‘Insomnia’, ‘Me And You’ shows a side to McIntyre and her band that we were all yet to hear. Vast in its scale and impressively powerful, the track is the exclamation point on the claim that McIntyre is currently one of the best vocalists around.
All highs and lows considered, it’s hard to deny that Knowing What You Know Now is a record built for success. There are moments that build upon a granite-strong foundation, and the band have retained the infectious charisma that weaved its way into their debut. However, the expectations for this record were tremendous, and going into this record expecting another game-changer might well leave many wanting.