Bats – Cruel Sea Scientist (Armed Ambitions)

Thursday, 14th March 2013
Rating: 8/10

Having first stumbled across Bats playing a lacklustre show supporting Down I Go in a dingy dive bar in Dublin, initial impressions were not good, although they already had the beginnings of a fan base there to support them, which meant it could have just been an off night. A few weeks later they popped up again supporting The Locust in Whelan’s and pulled out all the stops. Maybe it was down to the fact that they were supporting a bigger, more musically challenging band that led them to up their intensity levels and playing. Whatever it was, this band seemed promising. Then they came out with this, their debut EP Cruel Sea Scientist and they’re already living up to that promise.

Opening with a series of shouts, before descending into some brief, angular and heavy, guitar/drum messing around and a repeated mantra of “and Bats will destroy you,” you’re better off leaving all hope of safety on the pier, throwing the life jacket overboard and climbing on board this ship to God only knows where. The hopping bass and choppy rhythms of “These Ones lay Eggs” sets you up for a Liars-style rock frenzy. The calmly delivered vocals are a million miles from the storm, which was in the preceding “Death To Kent Hovind”. The diversion into some Mr. Bungle friendly madness is as unexpected and memorable as being stopped and handed a broken compass by a stranger while walking down O’Connell Street on a hungover Sunday. The hypnotic, very danceable outro seems to end too quickly before its back to the realm of the weird with the fleeting, Down I Go alike “Nautilus vs. Irish Ferry.”

Where Bats excel is in their approach to their song writing, which is basically an-everything-including-the-kitchen-sink-and-the-dirty-dish-water affair (“Atom & Eve”). So you get bursts of weird almost pop madness alongside heavier riffs and quirky, bouncy little passages all mixed up with their unusual approach to vocals. There’s one almost spoken, sometimes biting angry voice but then there are parts where it seems like almost everyone in the band decides to jump in and lend a throat. At these times we get multiple vocal parts calling, responding, echoing and generally attempting to cause chaos and confusion. Or else tell you a story. Or give you a warning. It’s difficult to tell.

Bats thankfully seem to not be paying any attention to what’s going on around them at all musically, which is utterly refreshing in this day and age where you’re almost looking at each musician as if they have an agenda. There’s actually nothing cool about Bats, but fans of oddball music will adore them and try to hold them close to their bosom (could be dangerous though, I’d imagine they smell quite bad and possibly bite).

They certainly sound like they’re having fun, incorporating art rock gimmicks into their repertoire without being pretentious or unapproachable (“These Ones Lay Eggs”) it’s different enough to be interesting. Couple that with the fact that they’ve got tunes to back it up and you’re onto a winning combination. Let’s say if you’ve listened to and liked either Liars or Mr. Bungle ever, then give these weirdo’s a chance.

Bats may only be at the beginning of their career but it sounds like it’s going to be a good ride so get on now. Hopefully these guys will be around for the long haul. Give them the attention they deserve.

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