archive review originally posted on the losing today site c. 2003
Malta has a population of 400,000, with a ratio of more males to female. According to the CIA fact book its size is slightly less than twice that of Washington DC. It was one time part of the British Commonwealth but gained independence in 1964. Located between the coasts of North Africa and Sicily on the Mediterranean Ocean it is part of an archipelago consisting of five islands, Malta being the largest. Ravaged by Napoleon and standing firm against Hitler so much so that the island was awarded the illustrious George Cross. I could go on in great detail about many more things about Malta but at least it gives a slight insight into this tiny traditional island. Why then mention all this you might ask, well firstly because not a lot of people know about Malta, oh sure they’ve heard of it, but give them a globe of the world and many, I dare say, would struggle to find it. Secondly, and more importantly I venture to add, this tiny island is the home to the trio Beangrowers.
The Beangrowers are one of life’s little mysteries; two albums already under their collective belt (‘48k’ and ‘Beangrowers’) the band were originally signed to the German division of Rough Trade until they were bought out by BMG. Two years on from the release of their second album and the Beangrowers now find themselves the victims of major label downsizing. The trio have had a spate of top 20 hits in their own country and in New Zealand, plus awards for their videos and weighty support slots for artists such as Tindersticks, Elbow and Fun Loving Criminals (though we won’t hold that against them just yet).
Well that’s the geography and history lesson done with, so what about the music. This superb five-track work in progress CD shows talent enough to suggest they won’t be sitting on the shelf to long gathering dust. If you need reference points think Belly, in particular Tanya Donelly, add in some really early classic Polly Harvey and the faintest of touches of the Delgados and Melys, and I am not kidding when I mention these artists, this CD really is that good. There’s no doubt that a keen attention is paid to the development of the tracks and it tells, this lot haven’t just been thrown down, the polished effects are evidence of that. Fronted by the pixie like Alison, she ably commands and controls the moods of the songs sometimes heartbreakingly stinging with subtle edges of bitter respite as on the wooing rumble of ‘Waiting’ while at others gloomily menacing as on ‘Druggy / Analyse’ or hip swinging groovy as found on ‘I like you’.
In fact its ‘I like you’ that opens the set, a wonderfully needling bass underpins the whole thing while devilishly delivered stinging riffs dart urgently across the surface as though the Pixies are jamming with ‘Planet Claire’ era B-52’s, cool stuff. ‘Stop Heart’ cleverly works with a similar rhythmic undercurrent as Kylie’s monster hit ‘Can’t get you out of my head’ the snaking bass just reels you in while the sensual flows wrap longingly around you while for an inspired touch the sophisticated icy gloss of the more reflective moments of Goldfrapp’s ‘Felt Mountain’ sizzle throughout. ‘Druggy / Analyse’ starts out with the same macabre pseudo post punk menace as befitting the Banshees ‘Scream’ sessions before developing into a slow looping lazy eyed groove which by the end cracks beneath its own oppression sounding like a thoroughly wretched PJ Harvey. ‘Russian Boulevard’ and I don’t know why, sounds to these ears like a bullfighter stand off, a prickly punk pop number with a tasty swerving hook line that sits somewhere between Belly’s ‘Gepetto’ and the Breeders ‘Cannonball’. Best track of the set is the bitter sweet introspective glare of ‘Waiting’ passing breezily with the gentlest of touches as driving arrangements sparkle with lulling effect, really how can you resist.