ALBUM REVIEW: Membranes - Dark Matter/Dark Energy

Membranes ... Dark Matter/Dark Energy (Cherry Red).
Membranes ... Dark Matter/Dark Energy (Cherry Red).

John Robb is best-known these days as a respected author, journalist, music commentator and vocalist with punk band Goldblade.

Before all that, however, he was the singer and bass player with one of the leading groups of the 1980s post-punk scene, The Membranes.

Lauded by John Peel and regulars in the indie charts, they went on hiatus in 1990, and that seemed to be that.

But they reconvened in 2009 for an appearance at the All Tomorrows Parties music festival, curated by My Bloody Valentine, who were long-time admirers.

New music appeared in 2012 in the form of a Record Store Day single, and more live dates followed - including one near the top of Blackpool Tower.

Now we have their first LP in 26 years, a concept album about life, death and the beginning and end of the universe.

Robb, on bass and vocals, is joined by Nick Brown and Peter Byrchmore on guitars and Ron Haynes on drums, and together they have created an album which might just be the Membranes’ best yet.

Like post-punk contemporaries The Fall and Public Image Limited, much of their music is based around repetition, and at times they create a chaotic, unsettling racket - but what a glorious noise it is.

The album literally explodes into life with opener The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light, and from there things get darker and more intense.

Do The Supernova is the catchiest song on the record, and the most obvious single; it’s also a belter, with Robb’s vocals varying between a scream and little more than a whisper.

Money Is Dust, driven by a propulsive tribal beat, is another highlight, and things get really dark with the gothy, dub-inflected In The Graveyard.

The whole record has a slightly unhinged feel about it, and that’s what makes it one of my favourite albums of the year so far. 8.5/10. GW