In this day and age when pretty much all the media outlets are controlled by a handful of huge corporations, and only those who are carefully selected and vetted by the ‘gatekeepers’ get to be presented to the masses gift-wrapped for their adulation, it’s good to know that you still can get to hear of a band by old-fashioned word of mouth. My first encounter with Desensitised came two years ago, at a birthday bash organised by a fellow gig-going friend, who’d seen this band several times and booked them to play (also performing at that event was Lauren Tate from Hands off Gretel, another band I found out about from the grapevine).
That night, they were playing acoustically and without any drums; I’ve since seen them numerous times plugged in, electric and untamed and so I was looking forward to hearing this first full album from the trio. They have a following of mainly punk fans, but this album does cover a few bases in its eight tracks. Opening track ‘Emily’ is a typically energetic piece of power pop, about a girl of ‘beauty beyond belief’ who is also ‘eaten up by jealousy’. The punkier ‘You’ll See’ (a previous single) keeps the energy levels high, with meaty guitar from Libby Butters-Smith and a powerful roar from bassist/singer Charlotte Radford, with following tracks ‘All Eyes On Her’ and ‘Messed Around’ showing their knack for a catchy chorus.
Things ratchet up a notch with ‘Wasted’, with a pounding bass line and heavy guitar sound more akin to the hard rock of The Amorettes, then comes ‘I See Red’, a pogo-able number sounding like it could have come from the 1978 post-punk era. Penultimate track ‘Burn The Witch’ has also been previously released; a favourite of mine, it’s a slow, menacing track unlike pretty much everything that’s come before with Radford showing remarkable range to her voice, low rumbles in the verses and power in the choruses.
For all this however they saved the best until last; ‘He Loves Me Not’ is the archetypal acoustic ballad with which to close things. Radford’s vocal delivery on this one is spine-tingling, she shows here she’s no mere punk shouter but a singer of versatile talent. Indeed it is she who truly shines on this record; whenever I’ve seen the girls live it’s been glamorous guitarist Libby Butters-Smith who caught the attention with her untamed stage antics, reminiscent of Este Haim but on record, the bassist/singer comes across as a star waiting to be discovered. One other thing to note is the drum sound, a satisfyingly solid delivery from Claire Brookes and something that isn’t always evident on records from certain other bands with far higher budgets than Desensitised had.
I have only one real quibble with this album – it’s too damn short! At eight tracks, most of which are short and to the point, totalling 25 minutes, it’s certainly snappy but there’s a definite sense of being left wanting more; I found myself humming that melody from ‘He Loves Me Not’ almost immediately after it ended and it wouldn’t leave my head for some time after.
Charlotte, Libby and Claire can rightly be proud of this record, self-funded and released and already garnering acclaim. They’ve had airplay on Planet Rock’s New Rock Show and their gigs are now starting to draw in growing numbers of attendees, so it’s to be hoped they find their way to my part of the world before someone snaps them up to a major deal! Despite the brevity of this debut album, I will still award all five inflatable guitars.