C/T Review: Tom Vek, Luck

Albums / Words

13 Jun 14

Loping from the spatial mutterings of difficult opener ‘How Am I Meant To Know’ to the album’s golden coin, ‘Sherman (Animals In The Jungle)’, Tom Vek does a good job of knowing exactly what he’s doing; even if he doesn’t think it himself.

Luck’s single, the aforementioned ‘Sherman…’ is the deepest and clubbiest we’ve heard Vek yet; its stabby riffs a good example of the chaos and uncertainty we’re told this album is about. Whatever Vek’s on about, Luck is certainly rough. Synths wail like banshees and beats clatter with exotic furore as in ‘Pushing Your Luck’ and Vek, the mild-tempered Englishman, chats away on top. The end result is sultry and mystical, as Foals-like aggression is tempered, and artfully coloured, by an overarching sense of whimsy.

But is it whimsy? Who knows; Vek’s good at yanking chains. Like a festival randomer that’s had one too many, his sonic severity is marred by a charm offensive that gives these tracks their cheeky art-pop edge.

Forever the chain yanker and the cynic, Vek closes his third LP with a hysterically satirical poke at the album format and at Luck‘s themes of desolation. ‘Let’s Pray’, he says. Really, Tom? Luck is like the last party on earth. We’re all doomed, but fuck it, we may as well dance.

“A droning, moody, repetitive track”. That’s what the press release says about the track ‘Pushing Your Luck’. Not many press releases would get away it, but evidently Tom Vek is pushing Luck with his normal counterintuitive verve.

‘You have every answer, but nobody’s asking the questions,’ he yells during that selfsame track. Luck’s appeal is in identifiable anger: anger at a complicated world full of smart-arses, and at all the irritations, frustrations, and occasionally the annoyances of a thinking man. The backstory is Vek being booted out of his carefully kitted-out East London recording space by a housing development.

Everything sounds just as it should: instruments sounding less like instruments than enraged dinosaurs; the likes of ‘Ton of Bricks’ thumping to danceable depths via brutal riffing. Lead single ‘Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)’ crashes through new wave peaks, while ‘Broke’ limbers up with a hip-hop swagger and flashes of martial-art video game. ‘The Girl You Wouldn’t Leave For Any Other Girl’ makes even a classical guitar sound lethal.

If there’s a concern, it’s with the ultra-exposed vocals, which oscillate from Strokes-lite ennui to eye-on-karaoke-teleprompter shout-fest. All very unhinged, but cathartic too. ‘I don’t blame you for going crazy, I don’t blame you at all,’ Vek intones on ‘A Mistake’. The crazy thing is just how sane one self-righteous garage-rock grunge hermit should be sounding.

In Tom Vek, I struggle to recall a musician who possesses such a flair for the art of disappearance. Not that I’m accusing him of slacking; far from it, in fact, as whenever he does eventually surface with fresh material, it’s noticeably stonking, each record feeling more meticulous and immediate than the last.

Luck, his third LP, treads a similar path, Vek relaxing into a masterful groove as soon as ‘Sherman (Animals In The Jungle)’s foreboding riff wraps itself snugly around your eardrum and refuses to relent.

If Leisure Seizure felt tentative at times, this is the product of an artist with increasing conviction in his sound. Vek’s somewhat monotone croon still demands attention, and if you never warmed to it initially, there’s nothing for you here. On ‘Ton Of Bricks’, he’s pogoing on a bouncy castle of squelchy synths, whereas ‘A Mistake’ is a far more ferocious beast, before giving way to the pounding keys of ‘You’ll Stay’. Records of such frothy abandon are rare, but no less charming.

He’s bound to go to ground again soon, but here’s hoping that Luck’s skillful grip on intelligent, sugary pop has Tom Vek sticking around a little while longer this time.

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Check out Tom Vek's video for 'Sherman (Animals In The Jungle) below, out on Moshi Moshi now