Boston Manor – ‘Desperate Times Desperate Pleasures’

By Yasmin Brown

It’s barely been 18 months since Boston Manor released their third album, ‘GLUE’ – an album that, bar a couple of one-off shows and festival appearances, neither fans nor band have been able to experience fully in a live environment. Despite this, however, the Blackpool five-piece have been working somewhat under the radar on new music and are back this Friday with a surprise EP, aptly named ‘Desperate Times Desperate Pleasures’, consisting of five tracks that are set to blow your mind and clutch at your heart. 

As has become customary for Boston Manor’s music, you should expect the unexpected here. ‘Carbon Mono’ doesn’t sound much like ‘Algorithm’, for example, nor do the remaining three tracks sound alike either. That’s not to say, however, all five tracks don’t work perfectly together, telling their own part of this short story, complementing each other, albeit often in a somewhat contrasting manner. 

What ties them together most of all is the uninhibited emotion. From anger to anxiety to frustration to detachment to cynicism… There’s so much to be felt here, and that’s before you take a moment to consider the jarringly honest lyrics. The non-verbal sounds are often the most powerful, not least the guttural scream let out by front man Henry Cox at the end of EP opener ‘Carbon Mono’, so pained and full of rage that it says more than words ever could. The fragmented and raw nature of the song only further cements a feeling of confusion and anger, though where this anger is directed is unclear – a system? A person? An ideal? The beauty of this ambiguity is that you can apply it to your own life, using this ferocious track as your own cathartic release, aiming it at the subject of your own, personal fury. 

‘Carbon Mono’ was a perfect choice for the first introduction to this ‘new’ Boston Manor – acting as a gateway between ‘GLUE’ and the band’s new direction – but as the EP progresses, you’ll find fewer and fewer strings tying the two releases together as they lean less on aggression than ever before, pushing themselves firmly outside of their comfort zone. If ‘On a High Ledge’ was dipping a toe in these waters, the tracks on ‘Desperate Times Desperate Pleasures’ sees them cannonballing fearlessly from the tallest heights, unconcerned with who they might splash when they land. 

What Boston Manor have seemingly learnt and tapped into here is that you don’t have to scream, shout and thrash in order to be heavy (an approach we still very much love, by the way), and the remaining four songs pack a punch in a more subtle way than ever before. ‘Algorithm’ is more sonically accessible than Boston Manor have been in the past, but the lyrics are still just as dark, and with the decision to lean further into clean vocals, they hit harder than they otherwise might have done. It’s a brave move, as the softer the sound, the easier it is to pick holes in the technicalities but Boston Manor are a band who have mastered their craft and every nuance is approached with care, ensuring the execution is all but perfect.

This goes for ‘Desperate Pleasures’, too, a track where the concept of ‘heavy pop’ is first really brought to life, driven by what at times feels like hatred in its purest form. The first verse acts as a build up, creating tension and anticipation ahead of the first chorus, but in true “expect the unexpected” fashion, this is a tool that isn’t repeated. In fact, ‘Desperate Pleasures’ could almost be three different songs and yet there’s no sense of it feeling disjointed. Instead, this track is undoubtedly one of the greatest and most dynamic they’ve ever written, cementing Boston Manor as stunning songwriters and marking a new standard for the band moving forwards. 

It’s a standard that is immediately exceeded as the EP concludes with its final two tracks. ‘I Don’t Like People (& They Don’t Like Me)’ initially reminds you of your worst moments during the pandemic (“Haven’t left my bedroom for 16 days / And I don’t see why I would do when everything’s so grey”), but in reality it runs much deeper than this. This is a song that expresses overarching cynicism and a sense of true solitude, and while sonically it is the gentlest of the EP’s tracks, it’s arguably the heaviest and most sinister when you consider the lyrics. It’s this track that feels like the greatest departure from Boston Manor of old, its atmospheric nature driven by a strong bass line and distorted guitars, and making a feature of a powerful instrumental towards the end, tying the whole piece together before closing off with ‘Let The Right One In’.

This final piece is undoubtedly the most emotional of the five, the delicacy of Cox’s vocals working like a stab to the chest during the delicate verses before he lets loose in the huge choruses. This is a song that is made to be played in a live environment, with hands in the air and eyes closed as you feel everything there is to feel before letting it all go – whatever “it” may be for you. It feels desperate and pleading as Cox repeats, “Don’t let them in”, closing out the EP with what feels like his final wish, the words ringing in your ears and the music hammering your heart.

The past 18 months have led many musicians down a road they never would have otherwise travelled, and for all of the trials and tribulations we’ve faced, we should be grateful, at least, that this EP has been borne out of the rubble. At just five songs, ‘Desperate Times Desperate Pleasures’ leaves a lot to be desired, but only because with this being the best Boston Manor have ever been, our appetites have been truly whetted. 

YASMIN BROWN

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