BRUNEI: LUNA - Perfect Scums
Experimentalism combined with a fearless attitude, this plucky indie band from the Abode of Peace leaves one of us cold, the other enthusiastic
In the interest in being straight-up and honest, I will admit from the outset that I don’t particularly like this album. Some of them are to do with some of my personal preferences, some are to do with a lack of quality that I perceive to exist on some parts of the album. That said, before I go into the reasons why this album has failed to gel with me each time I have listened to it, I will say that I deeply respect the members of Perfect Scums. This record demonstrates a level of fearlessness that they should be praised for, especially when one considers how many artists there are who don’t take risk because they are often too scared of criticism. The only way to learn in life is to try; it is obvious that the Bruneians are clearly a young band trying to find themselves and their sound, unafraid to play around with different musical forms and styles.
“They are doing what they want in the manner in which they want to do it, without constraints of genre or fear of failure.”
The main genres which the band find themselves experimenting with is emo and electronic music, two quite disparate genres which when married together, don’t work particularly well. That might just be my general sense of disdain for the rather hollow faux-profound lyrics that emo music typically brings about that seems rather teenage in its inability to shed light on the wisdom gained from the trials and tribulations of heartbreak, merely focusing on the pain of such experiences. These somewhat lyrically self-loathing tunes pop up on several occasions and even the song titles indicate this. Tracks like I Fucked Up with its reggae bassline, though musically one that is more in my wheelhouse, my appreciation of the song is negated by the lyrics. One cannot even hypothesise that the band have a poor grasp of the English language as a defence, due to the fact that English is recognised as an official language in Brunei. There are other tracks with lyrics that fail to speak to me such as idk what I’m doing anymore, a sub-par generic hip-hop song one might hear in the charts that is completely lacking of inventiveness, and you. which in spite of its lyrics I quite like the melody of the memorable chorus with lovely keys underneath it.
Though a generic charts-sound is a criticism that can be levelled at some of the tracks, most notably the heavily auto-tuned R&B track Oh, K.. and Siri’s answer to the question ‘what is a song that I am almost destined to hate?’ in Fireflies, the album has a lot more to it to be positive about. Perfect Scums’ experimentalism with synths is mighty impressive in the robotic A Note and in the opening track LUNA a soundscape that includes a lovely climax with the sound of crickets or grasshoppers. Yet, where I find the band to be in the element is on their more funky and upbeat side. Though the first funk track, Blue, has obvious flaws, most pressingly in the fact that I hate the lead vocalist’s voice, the track is one in which they are experimenting with a style that may be new territory for them having come from a more grungey background. Dreaming, yeah whatever and This Was Not A Part Of My Plans are all genuinely rather enjoyable tunes that have got a great groove to them. Whilst overall there is a lot that I don’t like about the album, I am able to take a step back and realise that this album wasn’t made for me, it was very clearly made for the band as a learning exercise in which they are dedicating themselves to their craft, with that in mind I have nothing but respect for them.
Odd as it may seem considering the genuinely vast number of albums we have collectively listened to, Danny and I rarely disagree vehemently on the quality of an album, yet when it comes to these melodious Bruneians, we are at an impasse. I think it is worth pointing out that I don’t adore this album like some of the albums of the week we have previously reviewed, for example, but I do think it is a genuinely good and inventive effort with much to enjoy within. I’m sure Danny will point out all its flaws in his (incorrect) section, so I won’t focus on the shortcomings of the album here, rather I shall put forward the case that LUNA by Perfect Scums is worth your time.
What impressed me the first time round and continues to do so now is how much they’re willing to play around with genre and style, throwing themselves with gusto into ambient, indie, prog rock, electro pop and much more. I like that eclecticism a lot, and often I like an album more when I can tell the band are trying to do something different from the usual, or are pushing themselves into new territory – or both – and I can sense that on this album, that is definitely the case. Having started their career in the grunge genre, citing influences such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and though this album couldn’t be more different, it nonetheless occasionally uses grunge as a skeleton on which to drape other genres.
Songs like Blue keep some of that grunge simplicity, but combine it with funk in a surprisingly effective way, while Dreaming has an almost house music feel to it, which later elides into smooth pop, in a manner that shows Perfect Scums have a good ear for a catchy pop banger. There’s a freeness to this album that I really responded to. They are doing what they want in the manner in which they want to do it, without constraints of genre or fear of failure. To reach the great heights you have to risk a few hard landings. LUNA is bold, and that, in my view is something to be admired, and the fact that the songs are mostly catchy, light, and fun makes it an enjoyable experience.