The recent musical release by Legss is part EP, part spoken word, and is a delightfully wordy, acerbic and original collection of songs.
Whilst vocally owing a debt to post-punk bands that preceded them, Doomswayers avant-garde tendencies (and perhaps post-poet tendencies) distinguish it from competing bands with similar sounds. A four-piece band, they don’t carry the sonic diversity of their peers, but what they lack instrumentally they make up for lyrically. Front man, Ned Green, combines wry British cynicism with a dose of urban realism to paint a grim internal and external image of modern life.
This general feeling is matched by the guitar sound, which is unflinchingly abrasive and in a constant process of hold and release, teetering on the verge of collapse. The EP’s opener ‘Local God’ is an insurgent, ominous number that shifts in tempo and intensity. It’s three note opening riff is the perfect soundboard for Green’s fierce opening monologue, as he searingly deconstructs “songwriters”, “programmers” and “perfect bound magazines”. It dramatically shifts in tempo before crushing back into a two-chord change with Green shrieking “Should I go into coalition with the sun?”. On this track, Legss are knowingly ambiguous, expressing the difficulties that bands have negotiating between originality and conformity.
Next track and single ‘On Killing a Swan Blues’ is one of Legss’ finest tracks. It’s opening guitar riff is deafeningly loud, catching you off guard. The song then makes a U-turn, shifting to a bone-chilling guitar and drum groove that chimes perfectly with Green’s neurotic opening lyric “Doctor, doctor, I think I’m at death’s door”. Commenting on the overly health conscious nation, he remarks “we’re all so tired / with all that sleep”. It’s a dark portrait of the world that is hyper-paranoid about their health; a stark realisation as we move into a COVID world.
A letter to Huw Stephens
Perhaps the most experimental offering on the EP is the spoken word ‘Letter to Huw’. Centered around a fictitious dinner between Green and the Radio One DJ Huw Stephens, the band create a vivid soundscape that recreates the background jazz of the hard-rock café. Rather than relying on computer generated sounds, the band creates an evocative image (through the four-piece band) of the narrated events, from the “euro star down to Paris” to the dramatic drone of Huw’s voice as it’s revealed that he dislikes “all music”. This ironic comedic reveal is punctuated by a thumping bass drum and Green’s automated-sounding voice.
It’s a refreshing comedic interlude from a band that seemingly takes themselves too seriously (they’ve released book versions of both of their EPs). Spoken word interludes are not unfamiliar territory for Legss, as their predecessor ‘Writhing Comedy,’ contained the more angsty and less tongue-in-check spoken word track ‘Graduate Scheme’. ‘Letter to Huw’ is far less ironically existential than ‘Graduate Scheme’, which anxiously looks in fear to the future for South London artists. These moments from both of their EPs demonstrate how Legss are unafraid to be perceived as pretentious, as their lyrics, especially on these spoken word tracks, have a winking self-aware irony.
From Venus to Doom
The proceeding track ‘Venus’ is more of a traditional post-punk track that Huw Stephens would have likely spun on his Radio One show. Here, the lyrics are less immediately interesting than ‘Local God’ but the track maintains excitement through its constant capacity to shift and evolve. A largely abrasive track, the song’s climax is uncharacteristically mellow and soothing; a welcome respite from the mostly angular and aggressive tone of the rest of the EP.
The eponymous closer ‘Doomswayers’ is a dramatic finale that continues the spoken word style hinted at on ‘Letter to Huw’. It moves through three primary phases; experimenting with a trip-hop-esque beat and a quiet acoustic guitar before an explosive guitar riff propels Green’s sardonic ramblings forward. It’s a profoundly striking way to end an EP that is at times eerie and disconcerting, but always certainly interesting.