Review by: Jonathan Moss 

Joe Middleton-Welling is one of the greatest guys I know. Most of you will never have the pleasure of knowing him like I do, but to fill that huge gaping hole you can listen to one of his musical projects, in particular the one I’m reviewing. It’s a three song EP so you don’t have much to lose.

I’ve got to admit, sorry Joe, that in general the debt the band owes to The Fall is pretty obvious. But The Fall are a great band, and the album isn’t derivative, it’s just informed by that sound: catchy basslines, spastic drumming, mumbled English vocals, bizarre lyrics, a lo-fi vibe and a punkish yet artistic sensibility. The guitarist is called Alex Smith and he has a lot of fun, catchy guitar riffs and a pleasant jagged, ringing style. Joe shouts a lot and occasionally screams, and his voice has a kind of muffled quality, like it was recorded in a separate room from the band at a lower volume. Personally I enjoy this, I think it adds to the aesthetic and it kind of emphasises Joe, in the way a pond with a lone with a single drowned swan would emphasis the swan. And Joe is a lot of fun, so he deserves to be emphasised! It’s a very hooky EP as well, with a lot of energy. “Computers for Leisure”, in particular, would be suited for radio, if it wasn’t for the naughty words.

We’re not going to talk about that song yet, though. We’re going to do the EP in reverse! So the last song is a nine minute romp with the unforgettable name “German Sex Dungeon”. It’s a very fun, anarchic tune which definitely sounds like it was born out of a jam session. It starts off with hypnotic krautrock style guitar line and bass line, and Joe shouting the words “sweat” and later, “victory” repeatedly. The drumming goes from being more manic to subdued, like he started to fall asleep. It’s got more energy than one of those crappy energy drinks, kind of like a motorik beat but sublated to be really fucked up and fast, like if that steady German road it metaphorically symbolised had a fuckton of car crashes. There’s a cool, crunchy Boris-esque guitar line which gives the song an aggressive vibe. Lotta screaming! It slows down near the end and gets pretty menacing, almost black metally. Before that there’s “Your Favourite Things?” which is the least memorable song on the album, though I do enjoy the lyric “I’m always hungry for cock” a lot (Joe told me the lyrics are taken from some newspaper). The drum line that opens the song is pretty catchy, and the bass line has a demented circus vibe, with creepy echoing guitar reinforcing this. It’s a kind of shuffle revolving around these elements, with Joe angrily speaking over it. It’s definitely a fun song, it’s just surrounded by two better ones.

Speaking of better songs, “Computers for Leisure” is a fucking masterpiece! It’s the song where The Plastic Other fully transcend their Fall influence, sounding more like a mopey pop rock band informed by slowcore. It opens with an extremely catchy jangly guitar riff, topped off by a melancholic, nostalgic vibe. In general the song seems reminiscent of what I imagine it’s like in Industrial England; trying to get shagged and looking for meaning in a decaying late capitalist landscape. Joe vocally isn’t muffled at all, and he sounds a lot more like himself, he’s even louder than the band! The lyrics he speak-sings are fantastic, with lines like “sometimes i really wish i was miserable, at least then I would have something to complain about”, and “i mean, don’t you ever look out the window and think, i wish i was somewhere else”? He also does some ace cathartic screaming, like these nihilistic thoughts do give him pain. This intensity combined with the sad vibe of the song gives it such a depressing yet paradoxically sweet vibe. There’s more jagged post-punkish guitar playing which is catchy as fuck, but the ringing undistorted guitar line that goes throughout the song is what makes it.

So hopefully I’ve managed to convey what a great song “Computers for Leisure” is and, y’know, the other two are fun as well. Check it out for great post-punkish music that isn’t derivative shite like Bloc Party!