Malachai | Ugly Side of Love
Most Likely To: make one feel like some other herbs were mixed in with their tea.
[Editor's note: there seems to be some dispute about whether the band formerly known as Malakai will heretofore be known as "Malachai" or "Malakai UK," but our latest word from the label seems to indicate the former.]
Ah, it’s been a while since we’ve had a group have to submit to appending UK or The English to their name to differentiate them from a synonymous U.S. artist (seemingly an alternative hip-hop type who’s gone so far as to register the name Malakai®. I wouldn’t have thought such precautions would be necessary for a name like Malakai, but I guess that just goes to show what I know, doesn’t it?).
In the case of the Bristol duo Malachai, it makes a ton of sense to slap the UK brand on them, as they are veddy, veddy British. (Though I still think it would have been a hoot to name themselves Paul Collins’ Malachai, but that would be a joke understood by all of about three people, so never mind.) They’re right up there with Ray Davies and Damon Albarn when it comes to limeyness, so the U.K. tag they seem to have been forced to saddle themselves with is more a P.S.A. than anything else. Their biggest market in the U.S. is going to be to diehard Anglophiles.
Those Anglophiles will find a lot to keep them happy, at least. The duo seems intent on updating late-60s Britadelica like Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd, Donovan, The Zombies and The Move for the 21st century, so trippy guitars and vocals butt up against post-Trip Hop beats and samples. They’re like a slightly more sinister version of other contemporary Brit psychedelic popsters like Jim Noir, or a very much less subcontinental version of Cornershop.
Overall, it’s a fairly appealing mix. “Shitkicker” mixes cowboy guitars with a vocal that sounds like Ian Hunter trying to sing “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk” from Piper At the Gates of Dawn. “Snowflake” alternates a vaguely dubby beat and fuzzboxed guitar with loopy piano breaks, while “Lay Down Stay Down” bursts out into dramatic horn breaks that sound lifted from a Scott Walker album back when he sounded like Englebert Humperdink.
For the most part, Ugly Side of Love feels like an Anglicized version of Beck’s Odelay – an exploration of classic pop forms through a modern and eclectic lens. While it’s not on the same plane as Odelay, the comparison doesn’t insult either album.