Album Review: Amyl and the Sniffers – “Amyl and the Sniffers”
The rise of Amyl and the Sniffers really is proof as to how times have changed in the last forty years. While their Australian rock forebears like AC/DC, the Saints and Rose Tattoo often found themselves toiling away and developing their craft for years in the bars of their home country, AATS came into being when four musician friends sharing a house in Melbourne knocked up some frenetically sloppy garage-punk tunes in their basement studio one night, and posted them as the four-song seven-minute Giddy Up EP on Bandcamp just to see what would happen. Suffice to say it snowballed ridiculously fast and just three years later they’ve supported the Foo Fighters in their native Oz, got a deal with Rough Trade on these shores and, surreally, even found themselves modelling for Gucci.
The problem is that when your rise to fame is this fast and unexpected, there’s always the danger of a point where you find yourself thinking “Oh shit… so now what do we do?” You suspect that when they laid down that first EP, the plan for this band probably wasn’t anything more than putting their name out locally, getting a few gigs and then just seeing what happened from there. Suddenly though they’ve gone supernova and the overbearing feeling here is that maybe this album has come out before the band has really had time to develop.
That’s not to say it’s completely worthless – I get the impression this band are probably best appreciated in some scuzzy rock club after a few pints where you can mosh along and bellow the choruses back at them, but here on record their limitations are quite painfully exposed at times. The main issue is that they only really have one sound – simplistic three-chord garage rock topped off with half-screamed half-mumbled vocals. On short sharp blasts of anger like GFY and Punisha, or where the backing is suitably muscular such as the rumbling Control or the endearingly daft Monsoon Rock (similar to the EP’s enjoyably silly Stole My Push Bike), this works well, but when they go for a more stripped-down approach such as on Angel or Got You, it just ends up jarring really badly to be honest.
The other problem with this lack of variation is that by the closing stages of the album you kind of feel like you’ve pretty much heard all this band have to offer – Shake Ya and Some Mutts (Can’t Be Muzzled) would probably sound good if they were near the beginning of the record, but by the time they close the thing out, you’re just left with a feeling of oh, this again.
Which brings me back to the whole development thing – it ultimately feels as if Amyl and the Sniffers have been chucked into the spotlight a year or so too early before they’ve had the chance to really refine their sound and decide what works and what doesn’t. There’s certainly an indefinable something in there which at least explains the hype but, outside of the live environment and without three or four pints of whatever your poison is flowing through your system, unfortunately this album falls a bit flat.
Everything about Amyl and the Sniffers pretty much screams flash in the pan, and it's a real pity because I suspect if they're given the opportunity to develop then they could put out a genuinely decent effort. And, like I say, these songs definitely sound as though they'd almost certainly jump up a level or two in the live arena. Unfortunately, there's a thin line between sounding raw and angry and just sounding underdeveloped, and this album very much falls on the wrong side of it. A shame.