ALBUM REVIEW: Membranes – What Nature Gives…Nature Takes Away (Cherry Red Records)
Formed in Blackpool in 1977, the Membranes were one of the leading lights of the underground post-punk movement, enjoying some indie chart success before splitting in 1990
They went their separate ways, with frontman John Robb forging a career for himself as an author, journalist, sought-after authority on the punk scene and frontman of Goldblade.
In 2009, one of their old support bands, My Bloody Valentine, asked them to reform for a festival. They did, and have never looked back.
Re-energised, they released their best-selling and most critically-acclaimed album in 2015 in the shape of Dark Matter/Dark Energy, all about the life and death of the universe.
It was a stunning piece of work, which took on a life of its own, even inspiring a remixed version involving big names such as the Manics‘ James Dean Bradfield, Mark Lanegan, Youth and Therapy!
The band are clearly enjoying a new lease of life, and now they are back with their ninth album, a double, which uses their own 20-piece choir to juxtapose their dark drone and melancholic power.
It features 16 songs about the beauty and violence of nature, split into four distinctive seasons, and there are guest appearances from BBC nature presenter Chris Packham, 70s punk icon Jordan, and Theatre Of Hate/Spear Of Destiny frontman Kirk Brandon, among others.
Bassist Robb, guitarists Peter Byrchemore and Nick Brown and drummer Rob Haynes have produced another masterpiece – a brooding slice of prime prog-punk, if you like.
It’s an album which is worth spending time with, however; one listen had me hooked, as it veers from dub to dirty disco, and bass-driven apocalyptic visions to dark opera.
Highlights include the barmy A Murder Of Crows, the magnificent Deep In The Forest Where The Memories Linger, and A Murmuration Of Starlings On Blackpool Pier (featuring a poem read by folk singer Shirley Collins).
This album is, for me, the best of the Membranes‘ career, and I can’t wait to hear these songs live. 8/10.