Snapped Ankles are one of the most theatrical bands around. Their live performances use pageantry and costume to present band members as 'woodwose'; satyr-like Medieval wildmen. But under this frippery is a pretty straightforward ska-punk group. It's difficult at times not to think of Mike Patton's Mr Bungle, a band to whom they owe a sonic debt.
Snapped Ankles' songs, though, lack the compositional ambition of Patton's. Instead they lock into a rigid, almost industrial groove, and stay there for their duration, Fall-like. This is how, with few exceptions, Stunning Luxury proceeds. 'Skirmish in the Suburbs' slows things down at the album's midpoint — but not by much. And then, as if bored with itself, it accelerates for its second half.
Stunning Luxury is a bizarre listen, caught somewhere between rote and inspired. Is it profound, or goofy? What are the band trying to say or do? The whole thing sounds totally alien, but totally familiar. Even the masks behind which band members hide are amorphous and confusing. Despite this thematic impenetrability, they’re very listenable.
Consequently, a lot of Snapped Ankles' quirks end up feeling superfluous. The smoke and mirrors of a band uncomfortable with its own conventionality. Their project's reach exceeds its grasp, and so it sits in a tense area of near-collapse, struggling under the weight of its own ambition. And this, if anything, is what will make or break Stunning Luxury for most listeners. How palatable do you find the sound of a band pushing themselves further than they know how to go?
Fans may be interested in Mr Bungle, Liars, and late work of The Fall. Stunning Luxury is available for stream and purchase here.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe