Reviewed by Bec Hennessy
Picture a dark room filled with flickering candles, a girl sits applying smudgy black eye liner. She’s wearing a vintage lace baby doll dress, a glass of red wine sits on the dresser. She’s going out to dance slowly, eyes closed at a Goth club or maybe she’s holed up in her room creating art and dreaming. The soundtrack? UK band Argonaut’s self-titled debut.
Grungy distortion meets Goth 80’s synth. With vocalist Lorna Lyon’s syrupy little girl vocals, Cocteau Twins or Louise Post even, come to mind. Opener ‘Monet’ fades in with a watery winding bass line ala Peter Hook. It’s all droning effects laden guitar washing in and out under wispy sweet vocals. The overall effect, like its namesake, a pretty, blurry dream. Lorna warning ‘Don’t get too close don’t get down on your knees/You’ll never see the wood for the trees’
‘Touch Electric’ is a blast of distortion and menacing bass underneath taunting vocals. The tempo eases as ‘More Life’ lurches in all sulky and squelching. The breathy vocals despairing over one life just not being enough, build to a petulant chorus that is as close as Lorna comes to a shout. Usually I’m not a fan of the sugary baby doll type vocals and this was a pleasant change for me, however multiple listens did endear me to her voice and it really works with both the slouchy guitars and melancholy synth.
‘They Can Buy You’ has sleepy distorted guitar over soaring synth. The lyrics bemoan “They can buy you they can afford to ‘cause you are cheap/ and if they want you they’ll have you ‘cause you are weak”. ‘The Detail’ is a surprise instrumental – a clean picked guitar melody as synth breathes in and out over low slow bass line. It’s a nice change of pace, and works beautifully.
Distorted guitars temper the initial harmlessness of ‘Vintage Dress’. Breathy declarations of ‘I know you want me in my vintage dress’ all wide-eyed Lolita. Distortion simultaneously shimmering and dirty provides a dark Yin to the vocals sweet Yang again on ‘Spectres’.
Closing with ‘Sleep Tight’ ethereal breathy vocals echo and sigh over a jangling guitars and moody bass. Sounds more like a movie outro than a lullaby. If Argonaut are a movie, it’s a dreamy arthouse flick. Full of quirky dream sequences and thoughtful soliloquies. This is a movie I would like a sequel to.