As an old-school punk fan who is also a lover of all things weird, there was no way I was not going to be completely entranced by this new single courtesy of London experimental outfit the Ringards, recently released through Isolar Records (which keeps standing out as one of the new labels with the most interesting artists on their roster; every new release under their umbrella so far has been masterfully unexpected, this one being no exception). It is no simple feat to put together a structure that goes back to the most authentic templates of classic punk with a sound that comes across innovative without having to overcomplicate things, but Flaccid Venus – a suitably evocative title, itself in the vein of the kind of good old punk you’d expect from the likes of the Slits or even the Misfits – does exactly that, and does it with a vein of tongue-in-cheek amusement that is both endearing and effective.
The first thing to jump out at those listening, quite literally, is the hook. The handful of staccato notes that introduces the track also sets the tone for everything that follows, creating a jumpy mood which teeters between amusing and unsettling (speaking of old glories, think of Oingo Boingo here, both for the general vibe of the song and for the type of sound play initiated by this particular bit of guitar). The same rhythm leads straight into the build-up of the song and down to a chorus that is once again in the spirit of classic punk; another memory summoned by this track is the Dead Kennedys around the time of Holidays in Cambodia, particularly in the vocals – and while less explicitly political, Flaccid Venus is still so in the way that a song which name-drops the Guardian can’t help being.
With all these callbacks, it is still a very modern song. The familiar building blocks are rearranged into something different, and one of the most enjoyable things about it is the way in which the Ringards are evidently having fun with it, trying to see what they can do with the elements at their disposal in a way that has something of the theatrical. It is a song that makes you want to see it performed, because it certainly opens many doors to the possibility of interesting happenings on stage; but also a song that plays with its sounds, particularly the interplay between guitar, bass, and vocals, by making them do things they might not be expected to do. The fact that the result is still, in terms of structure, deceptively simple is a testament to the craft that went into building the track at the compositional level.
An excess of production would be the death knell of a track like this, where the experimental element is built of a foundation made of simple but constantly moving parts, and it is therefore worthy of praise that the production here manages to never be intrusive; you’d almost think it wasn’t there – the song has that crisp, direct demo-like quality that is to be appreciated in a track the spirit of which is so quintessentially punk – except that there is a clarity and a precision in the timings and the rhythms that makes it clear that this is a track that has been worked on much more than you’d think at first listen. We live in the age of the autotune, where it is sadly increasingly rare to be able to applaud a song for its high levels of craftmanship, but this is very much the case with Flaccid Venus, and that is an achievement in itself.
Irreverent, in-your-face clever, and sharp, this is a track that will worm its way into your brain and linger there for just long enough to feel uncomfortable in the best of way. It is ingenious without being overreaching, and a very intriguing offering from a band which promises to do something memorable in the coming year.
Check it out, here