FRANK CARTER & THE RATTLESNAKES
Modern Ruin (Kobalt)
For someone ostensibly either punk or metal, or both, Englishman Frank Carter manages to walk the line between anger and outrage, insight and compassion.
He can roar with disgust in the brutal and brutally short Jackals or spit out a put down that stings in the rumbling pop rock of Vampires.
And he can do so with a kind of guttural force that as cliché would have it suits his heavily tattooed form. The title track is like early Husker Du meets Black Flag and pounds you like one of those wrestlers Husker Du’s Bob Mould wrote scripts for; Lullaby has a Queens Of The Stone Age swing but still churns.
But on Modern Ruin Carter also boldly goes into the nature of the masculine and the feminine (pre-empting the new Laura Marling in that sense oddly enough) and the vulnerability of both love and the bodies holding love together.
Snake Eyes is sex- indeterminate in its characters, and their motivations, and genre-fluid in its style, with both mid-period Arctic Monkeys and harsh-throated new thrash incorporated.
Wild Flowers has a wicked strut and new-age-of-british-metal guitar work but also (genuinely) talks of making daisy chains and ends with an air of resignation if not understanding as the love disappears.
There’s even optimism of sorts offered. Neon Ruse, which closes the album after the pummelling of Modern Ruin, is a slowly turning ballad that finally breaks out with urgency: turning from echoes of Soundgarden at their most tempered to Nirvana at their most aggrieved.
But in the same way that Neon Ruse ends on a controlled, almost subdued note, it finds Carter not just recognising “It’s bleak and we are pale/we are the savages of a future frail” but that whatever the ruin already, “we don’t belong in a wasteland”.
It will be interesting to see if often finding a middle ground between punk and metal – a territory we may as well just call rock - Carter is seen as softening too much by the hard-heads who have forgotten his more mainstream Pure Love sideline and got their rocks off with the first Rattlesnakes album, Blossom.
It will be heartening to see songs from this album find their way onto regular rock playlists the way neither Pure Love nor Blossom could manage. Modern Ruin is accessible enough and good enough.