Self-described as “fuzzed out power pop”, Rainbow Reservoir are one of the undiscovered gems of the indie punk world. Drunk on distortion, latest release ‘Channel Hanna’ sees the Oxford trio immaculately play to their strengths from bell to bell.
Give frontwoman/songwriter Angela Space all the credit in the world, she makes sure her songs are actually about something. Opening track ‘Brenda’, with its classic punk rock riff, think Ramones/Sex Pistols, details a council estate bully (her name is Brenda), described as a scrounge, with some intended monarchy metaphor. Actually, given the Sex Pistols vibe, alongside the song’s intro, which is a quick, fuzzed-out instrumental cover of ‘God Save the Queen’ (the national anthem, not the Sex Pistols song), it’s safe to assume Rainbow Reservoir do have some kind of royal vendetta.
‘Creepy Kissing – Gold Star Girl’ swiftly moves on from accidentally eavesdropping on some “creepy kissing, down by the stream”, to a tale of LGBT discovery – “she always knew just what she liked, since she saw her BFF in her bra and tights”. Then there are the tunes with even more unconventional subject matters, including ‘Blue Crab’, as Angela is seemingly haunted by a crab in her dreams, but stops to question what she thinks the crab’s reaction would be to her seeing it as a source of fear and nothing else. Some tracks have political undertones, such as ‘Posh Ponytails’, which is fitting because the basic composition of the song makes it sound like a cuter, more amped-up version of Billy Bragg’s ‘A New England’.
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Angela Space’s vocals aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but she delivers everything in a poised snarky manner, so it seems she’s perfectly aware she doesn’t have the voice of an angel. That being said, some of the slower songs, the swooning balladry of ‘Rainbows Don’t End’ in particular, end up suffering due to Angela’s insistence on remaining almost ear-gratingly high-pitched. The same goes for sentimental finale ‘Big Bunny’, but acoustic waltz ‘Man o’War’ is more of a triumph, alongside the very human-sounding lullaby that is ‘Blue Crab’.
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It’ll be fun to see what the future holds for Rainbow Reservoir, they’re a little in danger of being labelled as one-note. It’d be a lot easier to admire and gawk at the ever-present super-amplification of the guitars if it wasn’t SO ever-present. ‘Fuzzy’ might be the standout example, if there really is one, as it takes the group’s love of guitar fuzz to make the most obnoxiously beautiful riff of ‘Channel Hanna’ – well, the song is called ‘Fuzzy’, so what did you expect? But the tracklist is fairly difficult to analyse on a song-by-song basis for its production, because outside the acoustic compositions, everything is…well…one-note.
It may not be groundbreaking, but ‘Channel Hanna’ is a lot of fun. Rainbow Reservoir are three people doing what they were put on this planet to do, and that is to create some of the most expressive, cunning, fuzzed-out power pop you’re likely to hear in 2018!
‘Channel Hanna’ is out now via Oddbox Records