As I’ve noted elsewhere recently, the problem with most so-called comedy bands is that they aren’t actually all that funny, and rely on offensive or shocking “jokes” to mask a lack of decent songs. Wrong Shade Of Orange by solo act Mad Spanner makes no attempt to hide its absurd sense of humour – I mean, just look at that cover – but the thrashy punk/grind on the album is strong enough to stand on its own. However, the humour is of the kind that won’t be to everyone’s taste, and can be – to me – rather hit-and-miss. That said, there’s still more than enough here to have kept me entertained.
The first half of the album is, for me, the funniest. ‘Wrongshade’ is a self-mocking portrayal of anxiety and social disillusion, backed up by punishing grind; ‘Forced To Use A Shitty Drum Machine’ presents the lack of local drummers as leading to humanity being enslaved by robots (complete with something close to a binary solo); and ‘I Didn’t Kick Your Dog’ mocks the stereotypical “punk song about being misunderstood”. Elsewhere, ‘Get Off Your Phone (You Anti-Social Dickhead)’ lives up to the promise of its title, whilst ‘Got Smashed At The Job Centre’ traces a link between daytime drinking and a lack of opportunity, whilst having a laugh along the way. That these songs are all built on solid foundations of punk and grind, with some great riffs, makes them all successes.
Other tracks don’t work so well for me though, simply because I don’t share their sense of humour. Tracks like ‘Anal Sex’ and ‘Avocado Commando’ are more juvenile than funny to me, and the lyrics overshadow what are otherwise worthwhile songs. But, I’m aware that this is (as with all comedy) a matter of taste and preference – if you’re on the same wavelength as Mad Spanner are on these tracks, you’ll be laughing along for sure.
The album ends on a pair of more atypical notes. ‘Seagulls Haunt Me In My Sleep’ combines overly dramatic spoken word with slightly disturbing soundscapes; and closing track ‘Escape Into Reality’ ends the album on a high note (literally) with a dose of stoner doom, being a gloriously slow and weed-infused ode to the riff and hopelessness. Despite being different from the rest of the album, it still feels cohesive enough to work, and contains some of the most impressive musical moments on Wrong Shade Of Orange – the guitar solo around the halfway mark is great.
There’s no denying that Wrong Shade Of Orange won’t be for everyone, and even for those who enjoy it they may find themselves picking between tracks depending on their sense of humour (as I did after the first few listens); but there’s still plenty to enjoy here, and lots of strong riffs and movements on display amongst the jokes.
Wrong Shade Of Orange is available to download via Bandcamp.