Simian is a quartet from the UK that mixes styles like the animals on their cover art mix body parts (a Saint Bernard with the head of a sheep, a swan with the body of a rabbit and legs of an ostrich). One of their closest contemporaries in sound might actually be labelmates the Beta Band, but Chemistry Is What We Are has way more hooks than the sleepy and underwhelming Hot Shots 2 that also came out this year. If you were a bit underwhelmed by that release like me, this somewhat silly quartet may offer the salve for your wounds.
Starting out in a rather lo-fi manner with "Drop And Roll," all you can hear for the first few minutes of the disc are some quiet shakers, soft vocals, and either the wheezy output of a lo-fi organ or an accordian. Just about the time the two-tone shuffle feels like it's going to get on your nerves, though, the group drops a rich, warm groove and the track takes off with three-part harmony vocals. "The Wisp" sputters along with some flatulent keyboards and falsetto vocals for awhile, but again the group doesn't let things linger too long before letting loose with a thick backing rhythm and everything falls into place.
It's those well-programmed grooves that keep Chemistry Is What We Are shuffling along with a smooth feel. Even when the group mixes things up with different sounds (like the spacey, drifting "You Set Off My Brain" or the hopalong nuevo-western "Tree In A Corner"), things never really go off track (although the stripped-down, acoustic guitar backed "How Could I Be Right" feels somewhat out-of-place). If the album started out with a bang, though, it also ends on a very solid one-two punch with two US-only bonus tracks. "The Tale Of Willow Hill" mixes some nice atmospherics and almost angelic vocals with the perfect amounts of blips and bleeps while "Grey" layers some guttural and chimes in behind filtered vocals to amazing effect.
Over the course of the 13 tracks and over 50 minutes of music, this is a debut release that manages to keep my interest pretty well. The group obviously has a penchant for writing catchy hooks (and programming rhythms), but with several singers, it's the two (or more) part harmonies that help push many tracks over the edge. Based on the strength of the majority of the album, as well as the two bonus tracks (which hopefully hints at the direction the group is moving in), Simian is definitely a band that I'll have to keep my eye on. Definitely fun stuff.