O Emperor – ‘Lizard’ EP – Review
Having had a long-standing musical love affair with O Emperor for quite some time, their latest thumping, gritty, offering of Lizard was something I jumped at to review. The self-proclaimed group of “dopes” hailing from Waterford certainly didn’t the fact that they were without major label backing to hinder their musical progression. Instead, they seem to take it in their stride, building upon the musical repertoire they’ve already presented us with their latest studio EP. Indeed, in the wake of their debut album, ‘Hither Thither’, and the acclaimed ‘Vitreous’, the boys took all they had learned, crammed it into a studio and unashamedly offered us four classic examples of the ever-changing style of what Irish musicians have to offer. Lizard initially emerged from under its rock with the release of ‘Switchblade’, giving us a tantalising idea of what we the EP as a whole. With a shimmer of guitar and the guttural vocals that make O Emperor so recognisable, ‘Switchblade’ had this infectious beat to it, one that progressed into this delightful indie rock anthem. ‘Switchblade’ was the clever choice to debut first to say the least, it is the essential conveyance of the boys’ delightful originality and unapologetically old-fashioned musical charm that earmarks Lizard as one of the hottest musical releases for 2015.
Impressively, this is the progeny of just a week’s jamming session at the band’s curiously named “Big Skin HQ” in Cork. It’s amazing to see a sort of intertwining of sounds such as The Hives and The White Stripes. There’s that sort of relentless hand-banging rhythm to the entire EP that suggests the band spent the week playing what felt right rather than what should be right. This isn’t a rigid sound, it’s not completely polished and it’s that very organic quality that makes this such a charm to listen to. ‘The Sky is Your Oyster’ has this fantastic development and progression, an almost oriental feel to it which is counteracted by those gritty vocals, it’s clear they wanted to try something different with this track and I’d like to think it’s worked for them. This reckless feel that we come across in ‘The Sky is your Oyster’ continues on in ‘Bogue’ and ‘Trash Club’. ‘Trash Club’ was easily my favourite track after ‘Switchblade’, the looseness in production is palpable and the vocals have this sort of spine-tingling element to them. It’s an absorbing listen, mellow and yet this sort of infectious rhythm makes it a fast favourite. Some may say being dropped by a record marks the beginning of the end but not for O Emperor. They impressively dusted themselves off, laughed at the whole situation, then went back and made some fantastic tracks for a third time. You’ve got to love persistence like that, particularly the kind that pays off so well. Expect the strangely alluring Lizard to make an appearance on a radio near you soon.
Buy Lizard from Bandcamp.
Review by Elaine McDonald