BAND: ASYLUMS

ALBUM: GENETIC CABARET

LABEL: COOL THING RECORDS

RATING: 9/10

WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON


If you’ve been following the Asylums journey from the beginning, you’ll know the band just dropped their third full length album for which they made the dramatic leap of flying out to America to get it recorded by Steve Albini. If the Southend based four-piece rockers are new to you, then you’re in for a bit of a treat, especially if you dig anthemic, loud and powerful music which merges pop hooks and British indie fuzz with punk ethos and attitude.

‘Genetic Cabaret’ is a great introduction to the group, even if you haven’t heard them before, and has a little bit of something for everyone. The band spoke of how they wanted something fresh sounding, stripped back and immediate for this record, hence why they were eager to work with Albini, and that’s definitely what’s presented here. Through the rich tones of Albini’s slick ‘hands-off’ production style you can hear the two guitars, bass and drums really popping, without the need for excessive overdubs, samples or extras, the album capturing the essence and excitement of how these guys most likely sound live. 

A quick glance at the artwork and one might think Asylums are harking back to that classic 80s punk sound and style, and to a certain extent that is the case. They’ve definitely taken some influence and inspiration from that era, although it comes across more in a lyrical and artistic sense than a musical one

Released on their own DIY label Cool Thing Records (as all their records have been so far), the album kicks off with ‘Catalogue Kids’. A catchy guitar-hook opener leading into an attitude filled flexing vocal delivery from singer Luke Branch, the track throws you immediately into the deep end. It’s full of Brit-aggro energy with a soaring melodic chorus, a really solid start to the album before leading into the Coral-esque riff of ‘Platitudes’, keeping the upbeat tempo going and ensuring you slot this album into your summer playlist. 

A quick glance at the artwork and one might think Asylums are harking back to that classic 80s punk sound and style, and to a certain extent that is the case. They’ve definitely taken some influence and inspiration from that era, although it comes across more in a lyrical and artistic sense than a musical one. This is definitely their most political album, the one that passes the most social commentary about the world around them. Tracks such as ‘A Town Full Of Boarded Up Windows’, ‘Who Writes Tomorrow’s Headlines’ and ‘The Distance Between Left and Right’ are full of political commentary and observations which were just as relevant in Thatcher’s time, for example, as they are right now. Sonically though, the retro vibes comes in the form of more recent retro.

Title track ‘Genetic Cabaret’, placed towards the end of the record, has a bass driven funky bounce to the verses backed with a more eerie, edgie post-punk kinda vibe to the choruses and a 90s Brit-popesque middle section. More often than not, this the type of retro we’re experiencing with Asylums, and it’s seen again ‘Clean Money’ and also on something like ‘A Perfect Life In A Perfect World’, a slower tempo track with a bit of a modern twist on Brit-pop, especially on the chorus, which already sounds like a classic. 

t wouldn’t be too far-fetched to expect big things from them in the years to come, and for this album to sit amongst their greats

Others, such as the final track ‘Dull Days’ are haunting, soaring ballad type numbers which really resonate and touch a nerve emotionally, like ‘The Miracle Age’ which, while being the traditional mid-album dip, is not corny or filler. With beautiful, gentle vocals which seem to be twinged with genuine heartfelt emotion, this power ballad has a familiar yet haunting melody which really hits home and then surprisingly kicks into something a bit different around the three and a half minute mark, proving Asylums have a few surprises in their belt as the track turns into a more upbeat punk number. 

Raw, fresh, energetic and emboldened with poetic passion, ‘Genetic Cabaret’ ticks all the right boxes and is a solid third album from a band who seem to be continuing their musical journey on an upward slope and going from natural strength to strength. They may still be a relatively small band in comparative terms but it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to expect big things from them in the years to come, and for this album to sit amongst their greats.

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