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Scanners, Mexico, Tigertrap

An exhilarating travelogue in song: an account of the London-based band’s adventures on tour near the Mexico-United States border, a dangerous area due to continuing conflicts surrounding illegal immigration and smuggling. Beguiled by the beauty of the landscape, Scanners found the experience both romantic and frightening. The heat and the desert scenery were overwhelming, while the tension generated by the US border patrols was intimidating.

Wonder and fear is a combination of emotions that suits Sarah Daly’s voice perfectly. She has a distinctive intensity, an impassioned delivery that avoids all the many hackneyed methods of indicating passion that pervade popular music, and she’s so much more convincing because she doesn’t sound like she’s obeying the standard rules of soulful singing. Her delivery of ‘Mexico’ truly sounds like someone in a situation that’s simultaneously amazing and panic-inducing.

The music behind her is giddy, frantic indie-rock with a hint of Throwing Muses. Drums and hand claps supply a skipping rhythm that evokes the hasty, presumably bumpy journey over sand dunes that the lyric describes. Urgently-strummed acoustic guitar gives ‘Mexico’ the feel of an upbeat folk song, and the other instrumental ingredients supply some smoothness, but Sarah’s voice maintains the electric energy.

‘Mexico’ comes accompanied by two bonus tracks. The first is a curious slice of electronica called ‘Control’ that speaks indistinctly to power by means of massed, heavily-treated vocals buried under a skittering, sequenced keyboard loops. Again, the music seems to match the words, rejecting a controlling relationship using voices breaking out from the depths of the mix.

In contrast, the closing ‘Charmed Life’ is a disarmingly tender love song. It starts quietly and prettily, conjuring up a romantic idyll, and then shatters the peace as the music gets louder and Sarah’s voice takes on a more defiant tone. Now it’s about love helping a couple to get through life’s storms, and struggling through the bad times together for better or for worse. ‘Charmed Life’ ends with birdsong, as if the lovers have finally made it through to a new day.

Dave Jennings

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