26-05-2024 Music 286

The Speed of Sound - A Cornucopia: Minerva

The Speed of Sound - A Cornucopia: Minerva

Manchester indie rock psychonauts The Speed Of Sound are releasing the album 'A Cornucopia: Minerva'. The first record of the three-album set 'A Cornucopia: Minerva, Victory, Bounty', this is also the band's second release issued via California-based cult label Big Stir Records, 

Full of ambition, energy, and eccentric melodic brilliance, these future-retro-modernist garage-psych stalwarts offer up their new collection as Vinyl and CD 3-album sets under the umbrella title 'A Cornucopia'. Essentially 'Minerva' is being released as a deluxe edition, including two full-length bonus albums 'Victory' and 'Bounty'.

Hailing from Manchester, The Speed of Sound is made up of father and son John Armstrong (guitars and vocals) and Henry Armstrong (keyboards), Ann-Marie Crowley (vocals and guitar), Kevin Roache (bass guitar) and John Broadhurst (drums).

With 'A Cornucopia: Minerva' coinciding with the band’s 35th anniversary, The Speed Of Sound returns triumphant, defiant and redemptive, following up their 2021 critically acclaimed album 'Museum Of Tomorrow'. Named for the goddess associated with wisdom, the arts and strategic warfare, this album explores themes of resistance to mainstream cultural dominance, championing individual identity and artistic creativity whilst being a vigorous musical celebration of subcultural existence in the face of predominantly bland pop culture.

With the album's release The Speed of Sound also presents the video for 'Trickledown', having earlier shared 'The Great Acceleration' and 'West Wind'.  Here, they show another side of their craft with this delicate and spaciously haunting floating air, comprised of a soft-hued tonal palette just rich enough in reverb. 'Trickledown' puts forward a subtly expressed and quietly understated critique of Economic Theory, wrapped in a smoothly cast ballad of sheer silk gossamer lightness. A harmoniously mellow and hypnotically absorbing experience like fireworks in slow motion, the lyrics contrasts with razor sharp precision.

John Armstrong notes, “This could easily have been a traditional angry punk song, but gentle smoothness fits the soothing lie behind the Theory. I find the concept of Trickledown Economics bizarre. The idea of everyone owing their economic wellbeing to the existence of the mega-rich is pure sleight of hand fantasy; that they have amassed so much stashed away itself demonstrates it isn’t reaching further down. The stanza borrowed from Shelley’s Masque Of Anarchy (1819) in the middle section shows the general situation hasn’t changed in 200 years.”

'Minerva' presents 14 fresh and variegated tracks, each one a burst of differently-hued radio friendly sonic technicolor. These new pieces range from the recklessly fast Bo Diddley rhythm successfully merged with a Wagnerian horn section of lead single 'West Wind' to the haunting and spacious ballad critiquing Economic Theory that is 'Trickledown' to the stripped back mediaeval folk-tinged starkness of 'The Harvest' to the stratospheric vastness of 'The Great Acceleration'.

The album passes seamlessly through the acoustic guitar-driven groove of 'SS-100-X', the spacious iridescence of 'Eight Fourteen Monday', the lively ascendence of 'The Party Sniper', the glowing radioactivity metaphor of 'Half Life' to the bright uplifting dementia and identity-loss focused 'Mind Palace'. While the bouncing vibe of 'Bodysnatchers' reminds us to stay awake and not slip into the drabness of normalcy, the crunching melodic punch of 'Clickbait' zings into the typewriter introduction of 'Yet Another Tuesday', onwards to the punkifed rhythm and blues of 'So Faux' and the closing acoustic riot of 'Question Time'.

With their inbuilt eclectic and genre-defying style, The Speed Of Sound expand from their base-camp foundation of 1960s, punk and new wave influences, encompassing wide dynamic and stylistic variation, crossing borders and pushing boundaries at every opportunity while retaining continuity. Their music bursts with experimentation whilst retaining hooks and melodic sensibility, plus sharp barbed wit, lyrical depth and all-pervading sense of joy. 

Irrespressible and uplifting, The Speed Of Sound have continuously produced music laced with optimism and lyrical bite, tapping the DIY ethos of punk and the restless lust for experimentation of psychedelia. Formed in 1989 with a pre-history dating back to the day Andy Warhol died in 1987, their music has always been idiosyncratic, counter-intuitive and perpetually looking for something new.

As of May 24, 'Minerva' is available everywhere digitally, including Apple Music, Spotify and Bandcamp. It will also be released on CD and vinyl via Big Stir Records.  The 'Bounty' and 'Victory' albums will see digital editions over the next year.

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