Sunday, September 29, 2019

It's the end of the world as we know it, and Cassels feel fine

"I'm very much a pessimist anyway so a part of me does like to wallow in feeling that we're all fucked." So said Cassels guitarist/vocalist Jim Beck in an interview back in 2016. Three years on, and that sentiment is borne out by his band's second proper full-length LP The Perfect Ending, a pull-no-punches indictment of humanity as an "upright fleshy parasite" trashing the planet but too preoccupied with upgrading their iPhones to care about the prospect of imminent extinction.

Drummer Loz's percussion at the start of 'All The St John's Wort In The World' even sounds like a ticking timebomb, and the album as a whole is suitably explosive, paying customarily little lip service to convention and veering wildly from spoken word to skull-cracking assault. The gnarly riffage of 'Melting Butter' is Royal Blood after a crash course on Shellac, while the savage, violent conclusions to songs like 'The Queue At The Chemist's' prophesy the environmental apocalypse looming ever larger on the horizon.

Jim's verbose sing-speak isn't for everyone, but it takes considerable courage to put your neck on the line with your lyrics the way he does, refusing to hide behind distortion or effects. What's changed since their last outing, 2017's Epithet, is that he no longer seems to abrasively convinced of the righteousness of his own opinions, as though recently awakened to the truth of Bertrand Russell's famous comment "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."

Opening track 'A Snowflake In Winter' sets the tone, Jim's critical focus trained on himself: "I like to think I'm a deep thinker / And I'm pretty sure I'm a person with conviction / But in reality I know I'm a snowflake in winter / Blown along on the wind of the latest liberal opinion." The alt-right media might deliberately manipulate people through fake news and economy with the truth, but, he acknowledges, living in a left-wing online echo chamber also results in a distorted perspective on reality. One song later, though, and he's warning himself of the fine line between introspection and self-obsession.

Even the more intimate 'Mink Skin Coat' is infected with this sense of self-doubt and unease, Jim confessing to a lover with the simplest and arguably best lines of the LP: "I live in hope / I live in fear / Regretting letting you get so near."

If we are collectively rushing headlong to hell in a handcart - personally, politically, environmentally - then let's at least be thankful for the fact that it inspired the brothers grim to make this record.

(An edited version of this review first appeared in the October issue of Nightshift.)

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