It’s hard to believe that this is Brighton-based ĠENN’s debut full-length album, with the four-piece being veritable up-and-comers since their Liminal EP found unlikely success merging mackerel heads with neo-psychedelic rock. It hit the sweet spot of pandemic-era post-punk, where its soaring theatricality offset the devout seriousness of the times.
In many ways, Unum is a victim of the band’s talent. A glimpse of that same Liminal brilliance courses through it, but it’s lost a little of the gleeful light-headedness of creation without expectation. The Maltese triptych of Leona Farrugia, Janelle Borg and Leanne Zammit are joined by Sofia Rosa Cooper, all of whom have their moments of individual virtuosity across the album. Farrugia’s vocal fires with theatricality, channelling the constrained power of Courtney Love on ‘Heloise’, while Borg’s guitar soars into spaces undreamt of in ‘Apparition No 7’. The rhythm section is delightfully jazz-inflected, pleading the listener to dance to the quotidian tales they tell.
When all parts of ĠENN mesh together, it’s electric. ‘La Saut du Pigeon’ exemplifies where their strengths could lie, with surreal murmurs repeating nothing but the track’s phantastic title over hypnotic drive-time psychedelia, like a commercial remake of La Planète Sauvage. Similarly impressive is ‘The Merchant Of’, on which the band soar together as a darkly commanding collective. When it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s mesmerising, but on its more didactic numbers it lacks cohesion. Now their talent’s an open secret, and the pressure of the debut’s subsided, the band’s next steps will be the exciting ones.
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