With Cassels, nothing really seems to add up. They’re a duo, but have a great deal more dexterity can be expected from a typical two-piece. While they occupy a similar indie-rock / post-hardcore intersection as The Automatic and Yourcodenameis:milo, they’re nowhere near as affable or radio-ready as those bands could be. Jim Beck’s verbose ranting embodies the very soul of punk, but you’d be hard-pressed to describe the music in the same way.
It’s certainly an odd dichotomy, the sort of collision of styles and ideas that would get a lesser band flustered far too easily. Except, on ‘Epithet’, Cassels can reasonably contain themselves for a listen that’s definitely enchanting, if not always easy. And that’s in no small part down to Beck’s vocal approach, spitting spoken-word gymnastics in quick succession, almost giving tracks like ‘War Is A Really Clever Metaphor For Divorce’ and ‘Where Baseball Was Really Invented’ a vibe not dissimilar to an act like Sleaford Mods.
In fact, Sleaford Mods is probably the most pertinent comparison that can be made – a two-piece whose entire vision and ethos comes down to barbed broadsides about the UK’s many wrongs over instrumentation that, might be minimalist, but has enough bite all the same. Here, tracks like ‘Motor Skills’ and ‘Let’ go down the route of delicate, spindly guitar lines bolstered by heavier backing tones and a thicker drumbeat, keeping them grounded without sanding away any rougher, acute edges.
From that description alone, it should be enough to conclude that ‘Epithet’ isn’t a listen for everyone. It’s awkward, jagged and does away with convention entirely. But it’s also deeply intelligent and incisive. Cassels mightn’t be gunning for those mainstream slots, but this is definitely something worth exploring all the same, if only to see how interesting modern rock can be.
‘Epithet’ by Cassels is out now on Big Scary Monsters Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)