Written by Ellis Heasley
Muscle Vest – Live Laugh Loathe
Noise rock from London, UK
Releases June 11th, 2021
Via Prank Monkey Records
Have you got 12 minutes? That’s all Muscle Vest ask for with Live Laugh Loathe. Less actually. The brilliantly titled second EP from the London-based noise rockers definitely doesn’t mess about. It follows their 2020 debut Human Resources, and picks up with much of the same raucous and angular noise rock heard on that record. Unsurprisingly then, if you like bands like The Jesus Lizard, Pissed Jeans and USA Nails, this is the one for you.
Opener “Creepy Crawlie” gets us off to a dissonant start with guitars bouncing off one another over a driving snare drum and simple bass-line. The track soon erupts into bratty and chaotic noise punk, with vocalist Dave Rogers’ manic scream-shouts telling the story of a group of ‘lads’ out on the town. His delivery here is scathing and sarcastic, the chorus announcing (“We’re going creeping/We’re going crawling/We’re going creeping/Cold calling”). It’s ferocious and energetic stuff, with the track’s final moments rounded out by a massive riff-heavy breakdown.
Second track “Stray” continues in a similar vein. It’s an intense, abrasive piece which seems to tell the story of some kind of stalker as Rogers announces (“I watch you through the window of your kitchen/I want to go through all your dirty linen/I watch you through the window of your kitchen/I want to be your slave”). As those lyrics suggest, there’s a real sense of menace here which is strongly accentuated by the band’s raging cacophony of noise.
One of Muscle Vest’s expressed aims is to “reflect the struggle of the average person against an exploitative system within a crumbling state.” This is perhaps most obvious on the record’s third track “A Slow Death.” While no great sonic departure from its predecessors, this one rails against the crushing chains of capitalism, with Rogers asking (“Why must we work eight hours every day? Why must we work five days every week?”) before later reminding us (“We’ll all be dead one day”). For some bands, this could come across cheesy or a bit on the nose, but in Muscle Vest’s hands it has a real bite and nastiness to it.
The band wrap things up with “Blissbucket.” This one’s the shortest track on the record, and arguably the fiercest. It opens with a quick count-in that launches us almost into the rapid, primal territory of 1980s hardcore, albeit with a firm imprint of Muscle Vest’s noisier tendencies at the same time. Around a minute in, it kicks into a final raging riff – arguably one of the record’s best – before bringing the EP to an abrupt close.
While it’s probably a stretch to say Live Laugh Loathe brings anything particularly new to the table, the quality of what’s on offer here is of an invariably high standard. It would definitely be interesting to see what Muscle Vest could do with a full-length, but for now this comfortably scratches all the noisy itches, even if it is just for a short while.