Guinness - The Drink
- Released: 20 September 2016
- Label: Self-Released
Guinness offer an enjoyably wonky post-punk synth-pop, with clanking drum machine parts and funny, ironic and surreal lyrics.
One song segues halfway through into a somewhat morose rendition of the chorus of ‘Gangster’s Paradise’. I had to do an aural double-take when I heard it live. A few of their songs skirt the edges of novelty but generally manage to stay the right side of the line between smartarse and endearing. I saw Guinness in a support act slot at a gig in Leith not long ago and this album playlist is the only available music by them I can find. And via Twitter, I found that the bassist may now be playing with slouch-rock Edinburgh wunderkind Passion Pusher, now in the Song, By Toad stable and getting airplay on 6 Music. So Guinness may be a one-off experiment or a collaboration between mates but on the basis of this album playlist (I’m going to assume it’s intended to be heard as an album) they’ve got a dynamic worth exploring further.
The first song, ‘The Drink’, is something of a red herring, an instrumental krautrock freakout with some atonal processed sounds smeared all over the place and various drum machine rhythms dropping in and out, and, for reasons that will hopefully become clear, a laugh track. Maybe a bit like a blootered LCD Soundsystem with the drums at double speed. ‘I’m a Zookeeper (Not a Goalkeeper)’ flips between laid-back noodling and a quite anxious sounding fairground vibe with a menacing bass line. On ‘Trish’, an ode to ITV daytime chat show host Trisha Goddard, Guinness praise her as some kind of messiah – ‘We need Trissshhhhaaa, Trisssshaaaa’ – taking in references to Le Corbusier, the judicial system and Robert Kilroy-Silk. There are plenty of fine and funny throwaway lines in every song, ‘There's nothing quite like a well-manicured bowling green’ and ‘Schweppes Tonic, with some gin/Got me wondering, about Putin,’ to highlight just a couple.
‘The Comedian’ is the darkest song in the collection. The key line is ‘Do you ever get the feeling you're laughing at the wrong jokes?’ The paranoia of being suddenly exposed as ‘not getting it’ is pretty much applicable to almost any social situation, and is more of a cynical take on human interaction than a snarky one-liner. At moments like this, Guinness can almost come across as Dean Blunt-esque in their refusal to separate the ironic and sincere, hence the laugh track in amongst the most experimental musical passage, perversely placed at the very beginning of the album. They also have a similar mix to Blunt’s mixture of drones and use of noise alongside conventionally tuneful parts and off-kilter singing. A whole album or project in the vein of ‘The Comedian’ could be fascinating.
The album closes with the epic ‘Doberman’, a seven minute tale of booze, mental illness and a damaged friendship between a person and a Doberman dog. A jaunty backing track with simple descending bass line and keys gets cut up eventually with some clanging guitar and shimmery synths as the bass player and guitarist harmonise with ‘Doberman, hold my hand, hold my hand, hold my hand.’ The lyrics sketch out a kitchen-sink drama between two lost souls who can’t be there for one another quite enough. It’s just that one of them is a massive dog. It’s silly on the surface but with a darker undertone. In the final verse, the narrator is left alone:
See I'd put his collar on
And forgot to leave a gap
Now the collar's gone
And Doberman is gone
Where did I go wrong?
Guinness use a similar strategy with their sound, chintzy backing tracks can turn nightmarish with a quick switch of a bass line or synth sound, which is quite a skill. Noise, drone and post-punk angst sit alongside lyrics about daytime telly and Schweppes and it all somehow manages to channel The Fall, John Shuttleworth and Dean Blunt simultaneously.