Introducing: !Que Asco! 'Sharkipelago' Video & Single Out via Maiden Voyage RC 04.10.19
"Very satisfying art-punk scronk with impeccable credentials and lineage” - Adam Walton BBC Radio Wales
“Welsh three piece art rockers ¡Que Asco!’s debut album fully incapsulates the spirit of punk-rock and channels it through the sound of Sonic Youth, Pavement, Slints et al with fantastic results [....] ‘Reaper’ is a wonderfully unadorned record of the band’s desire to write short, sharp three minute pop songs which whilst sounding unpolished have a way of pulling you in.” - Shindig Magazine July 2019
This far into the 21st Century, the aesthetics of punk-rock have devolved to the point where the music’s essential unforced, unvarnished assault can be easily faked. Some Silicon Valley posh-chops is probably right now cooking up a plug-in that can make rich kids playing instruments their daddy bought ’em sound like street urchins who just broke into Albini’s Electrical Audio studio, the sound and the fury betrayed so it has all the meaning of a pair of faux-vintage ripped 501s with an eye-watering price tag. But still, even in this debased landscape, there’s still space for a band to make their noise as pure, simple and momentous as they can, and make one hell of an impact. ¡Que Asco! is just such a band, and Reaper, their debut album, is just such a record: the sound of artists describing, explaining and deconstructing the world around them, in plain, powerful language and a sound that’s immediate, untempered and raw.
Different lyrically than the others that have more of a definite focus, it is a love song for nothing. As with Caole’s writing it still draws from vignettes from real life and from his friends and their lives too but without satisfaction, or conclusion - take for example “Andrew’s book” (and I am sure doing your job you know this Andrew lol!) that is legitimately still waiting to be written. It fits a lamenting winter missing summer and a frustrated shark that can’t swim. On a technical note it is the only track crafted in the studio rather than a live track. Last song completed into the album but now worked its way into being a live favourite
A few pertinent facts about Reaper, then.
The recording budget stood at a princely £300, and that was just to hire a rehearsal space for a week, to nail down some vocal overdubs. Otherwise, the album was recorded in the band’s practice space above Cardiff’s transport club. Halfway during the recording process, frontman Joshua Caole needed to have a tooth pulled, and after returning from the dentist’s, half of his face swelled up to twice its normal size, scuppering his ability to sing. Hence the rerecorded vocals. Still, £300. That’s less than Nirvana spent on Bleach, and that was 1988 dollars.
¡Que Asco! is very much the band Caole wished he’d been in when he was in high school, but he couldn’t find anyone to help him form that band back then, because they all wanted to play ska-punk instead. Teenagers, huh? Caole went on to pursue a solo career playing alt_folk and country, but the desire to play torn-throat punk-rock with a grudge in its chest is hard to shake, and thus ¡Que Asco! The group taps into Caole’s primal desire to be a rock star, a dream first dreamt when he was a kid and realised he wouldn’t ever be a football star; it also taps into his desire to make the sort of noise-rock that traditionally precludes stardom, but Caole adds that both his solo work and ¡Que Asco! are propelled by his desire to write “the perfect three minute pop song”.
Definitely, a number of Reaper’s songs are three minutes or so in length, and possess the raw elements found in much great pop, like hooks, choruses, melodies (the melodies, choruses and hooks in the likes of Drive You Home and John Gotti sink deep like tiger claws), and are, in their own way, perfect. That way being haywire, untutored and visceral. Reaper recalls the full-pelt punk-rock poetics of early Uncle Tupelo, the bruised songcraft of Unwound, the impassioned caterwaul of Squirrel Bait, the bared secrets of Sebadoh. Its songs find new nuance and possibility within the tangle and tear of brittle guitar strings visited by tender abuse.
¡Que asco! translates roughly, from the native Spanish, to “Gross!” or “How disgusting!”, and is derived from a running joke Caole shares with a friend in Spain, who “gets herself in funny situations while chatting up men at the bar”. Caole and bandmates settled upon the name after months struggling to come up with the perfect moniker.
Several of the songs were written in a single week, after Caole and drummer Danny Joseph Wall hooked up with bassist Ieuan Morgan a week before a gig, and decided to junk a bunch of old songs to mark Morgan’s arrival. Caole says that he tries to avoid over-thinking his songwriting, but don’t mistake this approach for laziness or knee-jerk laissez-faire-ism. “I’m trying not to write love songs,” he says, “to have slightly more complex themes than ‘I’m going to put your name inside a heart’, like on my country songs.” He says he wants to write lyrics people would pay attention to, and lists Alex Turner and the Kelly Jones of the first Stereophonics album as key reference points. “They tell you about the places they’re from, the things that have happened to them,” he says. The album’s opener, Marigolds, is, he offers, “what it would be like if Kelly Jones wasn’t just writing about the normal people in his village, but focused on the ‘oddballs’ instead.”
¡Que Asco! are, Caole says, a messy prospect as a live band. “I like getting into the crowd,” he says. “I love doing shows where we’re playing on the floor, and I can just wander into the crowd. We played a show the other day, and the bar was attched to the stage, so I was on the bar during the guitar solos. It was great fun.” Listen to Reaper and you’ll nod and say, “Yes, of course, that’s exactly the sort of live band they would be.” And then you’ll make sure you’ll catch them if they play near your town.
Reaper is the kind of effervescent, off-the-cuff, wonderfully primal rock’n’roll punk-rock always promises but so rarely delivers, the sound of life in all its difficult, scratchy, uncomfortable reality, but shot through with the kind of desperate, thrilling noise and knotty, potent crescendos that transcend all the garbage and make life worth living. In a landscape where “real” is so easily faked its lost all meaning, Reaper is enough to reacquaint the listener with the thrill of truths told simply but passionately, the power of immediacy, drunk on the possibilities still to be found within ¡Que Asco!’s pared-back sound. It cost 300 quid to make, and sounds even cheaper, but here’s the thing: Reaper is priceless. And if you can’t hear that, maybe your ears need fixing.
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