EP REVIEW: Quiet Marauder – ‘Tiny Men Parts’: a critique of the male condition in bounce-along indiepop

YOU MAY have missed it at the time, but if nothing else you have to applaud the vision, dedication and beautiful absurdity of Cardiff’s Quiet Marauder.

Back in 2013 they released their debut album, MEN; it comprised some 111 tracks and was a five-hour listen. There’s an immersive indie marathon, baiting Guinness World Records.

It railed against the state of things in the best tradition of the British eccentric musician: wry, gnomic, angular, political, dissatisfied, weird, on tracks such as “Holy Hell, It’s Cold”, “I’m Sorry I Removed Your Eyes” “Pretty Girls (Are Pretty)” and “Prime Ministers (1952 – Present)”. There was a lot there to wrap your listening gear around.

Seven years have passed; and the sextet (singer-guitarists Simon M Read and Ian Williams, bassist and vocalist Rowan Liggett, drummer John Whittles, Francesca Dimech on vocals, trumpet, and melodica, and Kadesha Drija on vocals and percussion) decided the time was right for a MEN: Redux, as it were; a rerecording, a retooling, maybe a little edit (!). Thus they got to together to record an EP which is out now, Tiny Men Parts, fashioned for our smartphone-scrambled attention spans and even with a little actual studio production chops.

They sojourned to Cardiff’s Rat Trap Studios with Tom Rees, of Welsh glam saviours Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard at the faders; his remit, in these isolated, alienated times, to recreate all the sweat and pheromones of an intimate gig, while keeping a surrealist eye on the toxic masculinity and lad bantz.

The band collectively issued this statement: “This record is a celebration of the longest-serving live incarnation of Quiet Marauder, as well as a reimagining of our ridiculously long debut album, MEN.

“Way back when, in 2013, a lot of that album was recorded by one man banging a frying pan on an inflatable mattress in the Cardiff suburbs. As fun as that was, fast-forwarding to 2020 and the tender touches of Tom Rees in Rat Trap Studios capturing our innate rock rawness was one thousand times more rewarding.”

Quiet Marauder, photographed by Kirsten Mcternan

And what do you get, should you invest in Tiny Men Parts? Well, an awful lot of polemical pop fun; nine tracks (but hey, it’s an EP, and I can name many a band for whom that would constitute an album), digitally and also on a limited ‘fried egg’ (white) vinyl pressing.

The EP starts in the sprightly and caustic, proper indiepop of “The Business Deal”, that most alpha ape of pursuits, a little sorta C86-funk space leading into the proper shouty DM bounce of the chorus. We’ve embedded the following “I Want A Moustache, Dammit” down below so you can get a feel for their thang; all the tongue-in-cheek but deadly serious application of early Pooh Sticks in critiquing the state of things with that singalong chorus: “Whaddaya want? I want a moustache, dammit”, which has to be one of the best Clwb Ifor Bach dancefloor-bound chants of many a year, paying off with that acerbic line: “Well I guess you want for nothing cos you got a moustache.”

“Roda And The Bunker” is bags of indie fun, enough to raise our blessed Peel, with that zoo-style “peek-a-boo!” hook, concerning a murderous dalliance on a twilit golf course, the darkest lyrics couched in the finest bubblegum bounce. Eeep. “It Wasn’t Me, It Was The Moon” steps into a more introspective shuffle, with big barks of chords punctuating things. Our progenitor “would say anything to examine those cotton pants” – but blame, of course, the moon, should such an urge overwhelm.

“The Internal Monologue Date” steps inside the tactical play of the desperate fella on the pull with a little country drawl. “I don’t know if that helped at all / She’s not smiling anymore / And she’s already called the waiter and she’s heading for the door / Oh no!”. Heading into darker, more theatrical territory is “Lucky Tonight”, the twisted narrator of which is “looking for a girl, somewhere on the outskirts” … “I’ve got forty-five pounds, I’ve got a respectable face,” all over choral boom-shaka-lakas and brass worthy of The June Brides, natch.

“The Animals Are Spying On Me” swerves into the wooziness of the properly, deliciously weird, with the kind of arms-swinging indie bop The Housemartins knew and breathed busting down into little breaks more akin to God Is My Co-Pilot. The cat, the pigeon, all looking at me! “Eggs!” is a proper snotty surrealist punkpop blast about the thing that preceded the chicken (or not); and the EP wraps up and takes a bow in a dance remix, “I Want A Moustache, Dammit II”, the earlier, Burt Reynolds-referencing quirky classic of the future lent beeps and squelchiness and a lofi groove undercarriage.

Nailing masculine creepiness and ineptitude with insouciance and guitar pop like they used to make, Tiny Men Parts is the best fun you might have had for a while. It’s one for fans of political pop, indie pre-Britpop, I. Ludicrous, And The Native Hipsters, and eccentric lo-fi brilliance.

Quiet Marauder’s Tiny Men Parts EP is available now from Bubblewrap Collective on digital download and expressly limited edition ‘fried egg’ vinyl with proper ‘real man’ temporary tattoos over at Bandcamp; follow Quiet Marauder on Facebook and Twitter.

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