Forest of Your Problems

Jul 12, 2021
Web Exclusive

By Mark Moody


From the primeval forests of East London step the ghillie-suited heroes of Snapped Ankles. Once again they speak for the trees, but also have other items of grave import on their mind. Namely our impending environmental doom and that the rich (or here labeled Cornucopians) keep getting richer. Though their “of the forest” mythology and semi-anonymous countenances may be growing as thin as a birch bark canoe, the group’s dance floor rhythms and ever-escalating sense of urgency keep things ably afloat on Forest of Your Problems.

As with their two prior albums, the opening track is a slow build, but their most sophisticated and best yet in the form of this album’s title track. The song layers modulated squelch, boomy percussion, tinny cymbals, and echoey bass, that all weaves into a hypnotic swirl over which deadpan vocals incant some items of concern. Things proceed in pace from there to threats against the band’s anonymity in the Human League on warp drive single, “The Evidence,” that benefits from an infectious one-handed synth riff. Things get faster and darker still on “Shifting Basslines of the Cornucopian,” but the album’s initial build peaks on album highlight “Undilated Lovers.” While the track could go longer, it feels the culmination of where The Fall could have gone if Mark E. Smith gave himself fully over to the synth driven path. And the lyrics are as inextricably inscrutable as Smith’s best.

The album gives a moment of respite to wipe one’s brow on the slinky “Susurrations (In the Forest),” before a second half escalation that is not quite as gripping as what came before. Given the band’s love of earlier era synths, it’s hard not to pick out references to 1980’s new wave stalwarts as you go. The best of the second half of the album comes in the Devo-inspired “Rhythm is Our Business,” that serves to get folks back out to executing their best floss moves on the dance floor while the band states its mantra repeatedly. The rest of the album cruises through some darker moods and thoughts that point to Shriekback’s blueprint, which most closely mirrors Snapped Ankles’ own: impart concerning images and mildly political thoughts, put things in an ever-darkening wrapper, but don’t forget to get the listener moving to the beat.

Where Shriekback were overly concerned about the “fish below the ice” and Snapped Ankles’ of the “mitred threat” of being turned into furniture, neither are of much concern to fans who just want to get their groove on and their head somewhat engaged. Shaking your ash, ash, ash, to Snapped Ankles’ invigorating beats and polyrhythms as the world implodes may be the musical equivalent of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but it’s a worthy response to what Forest of Your Problems has on offer. Burn that mother down! (www.snappedankles.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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