Screaming Maldini - Screaming Maldini
If a word could sum up Screaming Maldini, that word would be 'striking'. They've been known to wear eye-catching pink-and-white outfits in the past; their album artwork depicts something resembling a deconstructed fan; but perhaps the most head-turning thing of all is the band's ability to think outside the box and bring colour back into the world of pop. It's hard to believe that the sextet hail from Sheffield, more famous in a musical context for Arctic Monkeys than anything else in recent years, as their flamboyant songs are definitely at odds with the image of the Steel City. They combine musical ambition with pop nous, in a manner that has seen them tagged as 'prog-pop'. It's exactly what they are, though - far more progressive in their ways than most indie-pop bands, and a hell of a lot catchier, too.
In fact, I'm going to stick my head above the parapet and declare that this is one of the catchiest albums you will hear all year. Right from the (figurative and literal) introductory fireworks of upcoming single 'The Awakening', Screaming Maldini show that they mean business, Nick Cox and Gina Walters' call-and-response vocals driving the song as the band's meticulous production style immediately becomes clear. The song is then followed by a pair of smashing singles: 'Life In Glorious Stereo' is one of the songs on the album that features multi-part harmonies and an infectious vocal hook (they're particular fans of the latter; they're scattered throughout the album in a jubilant manner), while 'Summer, Somewhere' features Walters taking lead vocal and delivering arguably the most powerful performance on the album.
By this point in the album, the listener will have realised that the band like writing songs in odd time signatures. Indeed, only one song here, 'The Stutter' is written in 4/4. In other places, we get 7/8 ('The Silver Mountain'), 5/4 (the celebratory closing track 'Four Hours From Now'), and even 9/8 (on an astonishing new version of EP track 'The Albatross'); the band's penchant for unconventionality makes their debut album compelling listening. While fans who have stuck with the band since their formation will find little genuinely 'new' on the album - there are only two songs here which make their first appearance in their catalogue in some form - most of it has been re-recorded, and the intricacies of the band's sound have been allowed to flourish, especially on particularly expansive tracks like 'The Dreamer' and 'Minor Alterations'. The album version of long-time fan favourite 'I Know That You Know That I Would Wipe Away the Snowflake From Your Eye' captures the band at arguably their most thrilling.
There's no denying that Screaming Maldini is a wonderfully ambitious record, full of joyous songs that have been given all the room they need to breathe. There was talk of it arriving as early as Spring 2012, but I, for one, am glad that the band took their time with this. It's clearly a labour of love, and one of the most colourful albums I've heard in quite some time. It's refreshing to hear an album that sounds as original as this. The band have freed themselves from the shackles of convention and delivered a dazzling debut that deserves to put them on the map. Sure, it may have taken it a while to arrive, but it's finally here, and the best thing about it is that it delivers on the promise of their early EPs ten times over. Here's one band who have the potential to develop into something truly special.