Snowman are a two-headed beast. They flutter between murky, noise-based ballads and brutal, angular guitar-driven rockers as though the term genre was an insult. The Perth group’s debut long player is eccentric, lively, and ultimately unstable.
Opening with the Nick Cave
comeJim Morrison lullaby ‘The Black Tide’, Snowman set the mood for what will be a dark ride. Singer Joe McKee delivers a contemplative vocal performance that hangs over warped strings and a free, delayed structure.
You Are A Casino provides the second insight into the Snowman sound. Part Latino, part tom tom explosion, the songs stomping rhythm hits hard. Anthemic verses are met with operatic choruses and the resulting chaos bounces out of the speakers with as much energy as any release I have heard this year. The instant accessibility of this track and the follower, Blood Money, are Snowman at their most concise.
Just three tracks in and the scent of Mike Patton is all over this release. Whether it is vocally, dynamically or in the swing of genres, Snowman are channelling Mr Bungle. For specific examples, compare the tribal intro to The Last Train Out Of Town with Patton’s vocal acrobatics on Goodbye Sober Day from California, the falsetto vocals of Blood Money with their counterpart on Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy and the Spanish feel of the guitar throughout both releases. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But just like pre-California Bungle, Snowman can be a hit-and-miss affair.
Smoke & Mirrors is a fine example of this. An enticing blend of gypsy horns and abstract weirdness; the majority of Snowman’s first single feels as though it has fallen from the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino film. The remainder is a confused child bashing his pots in the kitchen. An accented, distorted shambles; the latter half of this song is suicide.
Snowman’s diversity is both the strength and weakness of this release. On standouts such as You Are A Casino the group manage to package all their exuberance and talent into a song that has flow and sustained direction. But for every You Are A Casino there is a Red River and Cocaine Goldrush to slow the album’s momentum. The result is a disjointed and difficult debut that fails to sustain the promise that is hidden everywhere in this release.