Plague Vendor - Free To Eat

One of the most confident, self-assured debuts of the year.

Label: Epitaph

Rating:

For the unacquainted, Plague Vendor have opened for acts such as Little Dragon and Passion Pit. But who opens for bands like these? Three-piece electronic bands with a few off-kilter melodies? Soaring, stadium-ready synth-pop groups? Sure, maybe. But Plague Vendor aren’t any of those. Think about this for a second - they’ve also played with Social Distortion and Iggy Pop, too. Isn’t that something? Here’s a band who have virtually no internet presence, and yet are already polarising audiences wherever they pop up. It makes sense though - Plague Vendor aren’t a band to be categorised, and on debut album ‘Free to Eat’, they’re making damn sure of that.

Clocking in at just under twenty minutes, ‘Free to Eat’ is a rapid-fire romp through Plague Vendor’s many talents - an immediate, engrossing showcase for what these Epitaph signees can do. Opening track and lead single ‘Black Sap Scriptures’ bursts to life with sleazy guitar licks and an undeniable pop sensibility, painting Plague Vendor in the light of a MSG-munching high school band who worship Eagles of Death Metal and Electric Six. It’s catchy, it’s slick and it’s undeniably infectious, but to assume that’s all they’re capable of would be a mistake, because at this point they’re just getting into gear.

By the time ‘My Tongue Is So Treacherous’ rolls around, it’s hard not to imagine those Little Dragon fans who turned up early not getting a severe shock to the system. Frontman Brandon Blaine’s razor-sharp squeal ignites the track like a stick of dynamite; the rhythm section rattling restlessly down a ramshackle railway line to who-knows-where. This is tight, ferociously executed rock’n’roll that’s both vibrant and yet undeniably dark, and most of all it evokes the champions of art-rock to a tee: Les Savy Fav, anyone?

Free to Eat is a pummeling, relentless insight into the minds of four guys who claim their only three influences are Andy Kaufman, George Carlin and Jack Kevorkian. Conjuring up the sort of images you’d most likely find in one of those old Grindhouse movies or some other exploitation film, the biggest problem lies in the overall polish. Like those exploitation films, Plague Vendor would have you believe they’re four guys rotting out in the gutter, when in actual fact ‘Free to Eat’ feels like a big budget production that’s a little too clean. Slight emptiness aside, this is one of the most confident, self-assured debuts of the year - striking, exciting, and intimidating to Little Dragon fans everywhere.