The main problem with most “comedy” bands is that they simply aren’t funny. This is often further compounded by the fact that most bands who try to be funny forget to write worthwhile songs, so that even if the jokes fall flat, at least there’s a solid base of riffs to fall back on. England’s Raised By Owls differ from most comedy bands in that they’re actually genuinely funny; and even if they weren’t, their grindcore is more than strong enough to stand on its own. Combining a very British sense of humour – which should be evident from the title of The Great British Grind Off alone – with varied, impressive grind, this album is a winner on all fronts.
It’s worth noting before going too far in to this review that the humour of Raised By Owls could barely be more British if it tried. Songs about Ross Kemp, Mary Berry, Chuckle Vision, the Yorkshire accent – I genuinely don’t know if most of these references would be as funny to non-British listeners as they are to me. Are other cultures as obsessed with queuing, or tea, or Sunday roasts?
Either way, Raised By Owls take a whole host of British concerns and use them as the basis for blistering, lightning-fast grindcore that has plenty of groove, and the kind of hooks not usually found outside a Pig Destroyer record (and yes, they do get mentioned in the context of being David Cameron’s favourite band). Most songs barely last a minute, and are packed full of riffs, blasts, and vicious vocals that have enough clarity to them for the jokes to actually be understood without the aid of a lyrics sheet. Not that Raised By Owls are one-trick ponies; songs such as ‘A Lovely Cup Of Tea’ and ‘Boris Johnson, Vampire Of London’ feature movements that owe a lot to death and thrash metal, whilst ‘Off To The Pub’ includes the kind of huge riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Iron Monkey record.
As entertaining and funny as it is though, The Great British Grind Off has a few points holding it back from true greatness. It is, for a grind album, pretty long – 45 minutes – so energy inevitably begins to flag after the half hour mark; though the album does close very strongly with the incredibly titled ‘Cliff Richard Drinks From The Skulls Of His Enemies’. The drum sound is also far too compressed for my liking, but given that I feel this way about the drums on most grind records, it’s hard for me to hold this against Raised By Owls, especially given the independent nature of the album’s release, and the fact that the guitars and vocals come across so well in the mix.
These are relatively minor complaints when considering how great the album is as a whole, though. It packs in more worthwhile riffs than most grind bands will write in their whole careers; and it’s worth emphasizing that it succeeds in being genuinely funny without ever lapsing in to the offensive territories that most extreme bands do when trying to raise a laugh. The Great British Grind Off is one of the most amusing records to have come out of Britain in some time, and I hope the band can maintain the standards they’ve set for themselves, as this is absolutely great.
The Great British Grind Off is available via Bandcamp.