ep review ~ fleabites ~ 'keep it clean'

A first listen to Belfast hooligans 'Fleabites' seems the musical equivalent of a hit from a bag of strategically placed magic mushrooms. Wild, reckless and unashamedly intoxicating. The experimental  two-piece (made up of Tommy Haghighi and Jake Thompson) combine their love of guitar driven rock music and flamboyant party lifestyles to create a sound quite unlike anything we at Encore have ever experienced before.

Fleabites are emerging from an underground scene so frighteningly niche, it would be unsurprising to see even Belfast's hipsters running away to the safety of their Bombay Bicycle Club bed covers at the sight of it. There's no room for fakery here.

Apparently the result of a wild holiday to war-torn Ukraine and Russia (yes, while things were kicking off), the eccentricities and decadent pride expressed within Fleabites debut EP 'Keep It Clean'  are so original it has spawned a new and unexplored genre; 'new wave-love-disco'. However, carrying the weight of a newly formed indie scene entirely on one's shoulders is no easy task, and with an image already as clearly defined as 'Fleabites', how would the music hold up against the myth?

Opener 'Steph' blasts into focus like a lone gun shot, penetrating the delicate interlude of what sounds like a coughing fit. The next three minutes of frantic wordplay blends harmoniously with Fleabites pacy back beats, creating a whirlwind of unapologetic rap/grunge that shines brighter than most for it's almost breathtakingly beautiful simplicity. "When you're feeling down don't despair, cause everybody's been there"

Add to this an 'OK Computer' era-Radiohead guitar solo and the manic insanity of a chilling Nirvana whistle and you have an originality more compelling than this country has experienced in quite some time. In fact, 'Steph's slower interlude carries much of it's own homegrown gravitas, a tribute to it's creators clear passion for their art.

'Demon Potato' see's the story of our intrepid hero's take on the might of a haunted vegetable, in a song so daring it would see 'The Flight Of The Concords' immediately cancelled from HBO. With Fleabites entrancing shoegaze stamped  all over this one minute tour-de-force and it's genius 'lyrics' pulsating through every verse, it's not ridiculous to imagine Noel Fielding and his Mighty Boosh co-stars singing the same song on stage at The Velvet Onion in future-Camden. Well, it is ridiculous, but then so is a song which manages to depict a potato as 'sexual', 'slippery', 'arousing' and 'filthy' in but one short verse.

'Efficiency' see's Fleabites metal characteristics come bubbling to the surface, in a track of pure hatred and unadulterated frustration. And yet, even this is a pleasure to behold. Beyond the parody potential of a band like 'Fleabites' Haghighi's clean vocals actually provide a solid anchor for this song, gliding over the barrage of anger to remind the listener that 'never leaving the room to pee [sic]' is the definition of 21st century efficiency.

The brilliantly named 'Fish?' see's the band take another surreal turn into what can only be described as dream-art-punk. An 80's styled synth falls like rainfall over the surrealist thunder which brews beneath it. At times, it's doom-laden misery conjures thoughts of genuine sadness. Until possibly the greatest lyric of all time ends proceedings.

"I am an evil fish, I come from the future"

Fleabites Gothic Symphony comes to a conclusion with the fantastic 'Swiss Army Duck', an acoustic driven track featuring the genius guest appearance of Jennifer Wright. It poses the question of just how powerful is this yet undiscovered scene? When a band can pluck such fitting and enjoyable cameos from seemingly out of nowhere and witness a coming together as natural as this, it often proves to be very promising indeed. 'Swiss Army Duck' also proves a fitting closer, an ode to the freedom of 'not giving a fuck' and embracing the pains of simple existence.

On this evidence Fleabites have all the ingredients to cement their name into a very exclusive club. Though the hearts and minds of the mainstream top 40 may be beyond them, with the right run of gigs and support from the underground scene which has raised them, we may be about to witness the birth of local legends.

Not that they'll give a fuck.

Taylor Johnson

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