Civil Villains - Snake Oil | EP Review

For most emerging artists, the very first shows are rite of passages that involve awkwardly performing towards a handful of supporting friends in a subterranean toilet venue in their dull satellite town. However, once in a blue moon, an emerging artist will defy this timeless sacrament, opting to ensure their first bundle of shows are utterly unique.

Despite hailing from London and it’s surrounding areas, the mathematical art punks Civil Villains found themselves performing self booked shows in both Canada and the United States long before the release of a full EP. Whist many bands can only dream of performing in such distant lands even after releasing a couple of full lengths, Civil Villains found acclaim from fields afar with the backing of just their wit, skill and a few demos. As you can imagine, it takes serious skill to successfully achieve such lofty endeavours but Civil Villains prove their finesse with their debut EP Snake Oil.

Recorded in multiple single takes, Snake Oil is an abrasive sandpaper coated release that shuns polish in favour of amplifying the natural swagger that serves as the backbone of this release. EP opener ‘Red Hands’ mares the rash inducing rawness of their contemporaries in John with the push and pull unpredictability that’s synonymous with acts such as Delta Sleep and Tangled Hair.

With the track and record as a whole serving as a spiel that documents the greed, dishonesty and manipulation within the music industry, there’s a sense of ominous tension with these tracks. There’s none of the glittery and twinkly innocence that’s commonly found within math rock, with Civil Villains airing their respective frustrations via the means of angular riffs and obtuse time signatures.

Despite the grievances aired on Snake Oil, Civil Villains are a collective that share a special sense of kindred synergy. Snake Oil doesn’t sound like a record that was forged over a long period of time, with each member obsessing over their individual parts in relation to the mix as a whole. In contrast, it’s the sound of a band who are in collectively tapped into a private creative leyline, a collective who share a united outlook.

Even with its robust groove and deeply intricate manner, it almost feels like Civil Villains forged this record in a single furious weekend, channeling the creative energy they clearly share as a close knit unit. The shared ethos and shared sense of energy is not only evident, but palpable, with the dizzying groove of ‘Dead Still’ and intelligent time signatures of ‘Soapbox’ sounding natural despite their intricates.

To reinstate, Snake Oil is dizzying, unpredictable, rough and grabs attention like a vice grip. A rickety back yard helter-skelter of an EP that perfectly demonstrates how Civil Villains have successfully managed to receive lofty pundits so early into their career.

Score: 8/10

Snake Oil Is Self Released Friday 15th November


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