BAIT is one half of punky indie alternative foursome Asylums, with Luke Branch and
Michael Webster joined by Jim Webster and M R E. Sonically, it’s quite a departure from Asylums to say the least. The press release comes with a strap-line pitching them as ‘splicing the genes of Killing Joke and Sleaford Mods’. If it seems a little improbable, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t a million miles wide of the mark.
It’s the steely grey guitar sound which is so heavily reminiscent of Killing Joke that in many ways defines the album’s stark, claustrophobic atmosphere. High on treble and compression, the cyclical, repetitive riffs are paired with pounding industrial rhythms straight off a late-era Ministry album. It’s all interlaced with electronic bleeps and skitters, which provide texture and sonic contrast and is packed with observational lyrics which dissect the realities of life in the Western world in the 21st Century.
The first track, ‘Must Mediate’, immediately wrong-foots the listener into expecting some kind of downtempo late-90s electronica / slip-hop inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan and expansive trance before the insistent bass and NIN-style beats kick in, and then grating guitars grind into the mix, at which point it suddenly suggests how The Prodigy might have sounded if they’d been a bit more refined in their approach post-reinvention. There’s barely a beat skipped before single cut ‘Push the Elephant’ slams in, snarling, sneering, and spitting.
While ‘BAIT’ is an angry album, it also reveals a certain humorous streak, not least of all in its lyrical content. There’s something wry and ironic about many of the lyrics, and there’s a keen sense of the absurdity of it all which percolates through many of the songs.
‘Hate One Another Love Your Selfie’ brings together the disparate elements of the BAIT sound together neatly, combining social critique, stealthy bass grooves and sloganeering hooks to good effect. ‘I’m Still Here’ leans on Killing Joke sonically and structurally (the riff from ‘Money is Not Our God’ in particular), while lyrically throwing in references to Timmy Mallet alongside a screaming refrain about not wanting to be a dead animal over a tense, jittery rhythm. ‘Greatest of the Teeth’ also comes on like a collaboration between Killing Joke and Gang of Four while riffing about consumerism and mass culture. It also boasts a huge, catchy chorus and a refrain about Janet Street Porter driven by a throbbing bass groove that’s bloody awesome.
The nagging guitar motif on the album’s final track, ‘As Far as the Rope Goes’ collides against a stomping rhythm worthy of PiL and wibbly synths and as much as it’s cold, nihilistic post-punk, it’s also aggressive Wax Trax! technoindustrial. ‘BAIT’ is a near-perfect postmodern hybrid: knowing and self-aware, it’s imbued with more than enough passion to avoid the pitfall of parody or plain cheesiness. Similarly, while incorporating a host of genre trappings, it’s put together in such a way as to forge a unique identity. Showcasing quality songwriting and production throughout, it’s an unexpected but welcome landmine of an album that deserves to blow a hole in 2017.