I played Laying Down Rock, the opening track of the Drinks LP, Hermits on Holiday, to Gareth Murphy – author of last year’s epic record industry biog Cowboys and Indies (check it here). He described it as “A tad dissonant. Syd Barrett disciple in one room; a 13-year-old no-wave guitarist in another. Both doors open. Mic in the corridor.”
An accomplished summary. And it should have been, coming from him. But I think he meant it as a criticism. I would have used those exact same words as a glowing endorsement.
In today’s climate of career musicianship and papier mache pastiche, dissonance should be applauded, however it’s achieved. Hermits on Holiday, a side-project collaboration between Cate le Bon and Tim Presley, has it in spades.
But why would we be surprised? Cate le Bon’s unique talent has been evolving with every LP. 2013’s Mug Museum would have been this blog’s LP of the year had I not heard it for the first time in 2014.
And while Hermits doesn’t reach Mug Museum’s heights, it’s a quirky, carefree, bonkers little LP that chugs along under its own steam, sounding unlike anything else around at the moment. Attempts at categorisation are pointless. About as much as you could say in generic terms (if you should want to do such a thing) is that it’s a lady and a bloke with guitars, a rhythm section and a wobbly synth. And that, of course, tells you exactly nothing.
It’d be more useful to explain that there’s a track called Tim, Do I Like That Dog? (a kind of canine riff on The Velvet Underground’s The Gift) on which Cate repeatedly asks Tim whether she “likes that dog”, against a backdrop of lysergic jazzing about. “I don’t know,” he replies. Why doesn’t she know if she likes the dog? What’s up with the dog? What are they really saying? It’s batshit, and, dare I say, almost a little sexy. Actually no, forget I said that.
So, niche stuff then. You might hate it. But then it’s clear Hermits on Holiday is a record that doesn’t care what you think. And that’s why it’s good.