Liverpool based three piece hilariously named Alpha Male Tea Party describe themselves as “a fucking loud instrumental band”, and they have already proved this with their 2012 Self-titled release and the superb critically acclaimed ‘Droids’ in 2014. This sentiment is proven true with the release of third album ‘Health’. It is a record brimming with passion and power that requires listening at high volume.
My discovery of this band came a few years back during the early hours of the morning at an after party with a fellow musician, of which we were sharing new bands with each other until sunrise. This feels an appropriate setting, as Alpha Male Tea Party are a niche group; this is a band who deliver a product by musicians for musicians who will mostly be appreciated by those impressed by technicality and astute musicianship. Without a vocalist, it is a challenge for an instrumental band to hold the interest of casual listeners as it relies on solely the power of the instruments without the emotional pull of vocal hooks. Peers such as Chon and The Physics House Band have recently achieved this, and vocalists in experimental acts such as Alt-J and Sigur Ros have demonstrated the power of music without clear narrative in lyrical story telling. Fortunately the previously released ‘Droids’ was a triumph in this regard, so let’s see if their signing to “Big Scary Monsters Recordings” and the improved production quality benefits them whilst they continue with this momentum.
Contrary to previous releases, the opening track ‘Have You Ever Seen Milk?’ begins with a beautifully solemn tone; a clean haunting post-rock guitar melody laced in reverb builds into a rambunctious wall of noise by guitarist Tom Peters, bassist Ben Griffiths and drummer Greg Chapman. This opening track encases a majority of each spectrum delivered by this band: huge riffs, intricately tight drumming, and walking basslines balancing between groove and heaviness. This track finishes with a down tuned octave pedal riff, which is a new addition prevalent across this LP. On the topic of riffs, second track ‘Ballerina’ comes out of the gates swinging with one of the records’ boldest head bangers; this is reminiscent of the brilliant Arcane Roots during their ‘Left Fire’ era of gut fuelled riffing and unpredictable technicality.
The band commented in their press release that they took time working on this record in a studio in the countryside near Oxfordshire and that it’s the first time they have “truly got what’s in our heads properly onto a record”. This has clearly paid off in dividends as the tone and pacing is well thought out and balanced brilliantly across ‘Health’. It knows when to accelerate and when to slow down both in its intensity and delivery of melody and scope. Fourth track and first single ‘Nobody Had The Heart To Tell Him He Was On Fire’ is perhaps one of the bands most enjoyable moments yet. It both manages to progress through a journey of unpredictable musicianship without distressing the sense of fluidity and pace. It is predominantly composed in a major key, whilst retaining a brutal nature through tight guitar chugs and drawn out single notes towards the end; it is simply a joy to listen to. ‘Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am?’ retains this heavy nature with one of the bands most gut fuelled performances. It should be noted that the flawless production of this record has helped the most melodic and ferocious elements of the band excel with flair; whilst previous releases have had their big moments, here the additional bottom end and clarity has accentuated their graft to truly shine.
Instrumental albums require a great level of creativity and talent to maintain interest; fortunately the trio are at the top of their game here. Whether it is the catchy and moving chord progressions of ‘Powerful And Professional’ or the post rock chiming chords breather reminiscent of This Will Destroy You during the middle of ‘Carpet Diem’ the guys consistently keep your ears perked up throughout these arrangements without exhausting the listener.
Alpha Male Tea Party are a band who showcase a variety of influences across this record from heavy rock to math rock, to funk and experimental post rock; there is something for music fans all across the spectrum. The level of talent here is high throughout, down to the minute details of drummer Greg’s high-hat work on closer ‘No More’, showing a need to fill every crevice of this record with organic detail. It is an extremely self-aware record that chooses not to over stay its welcome and finish after ten tracks; and fortunately this last track brings the surprise of a sudden vocal line “I hope you find yourself, I know you’ve lost your way, I can’t contain myself when I lose you every day”. This is a powerful climactic ending that only teases towards how the band could cross over to a wider appeal should they choose to incorporate more vocals into future endeavours.
This is simply the bands most refined release to date and deserves to reach the ears of a far larger audience as they are criminally undiscovered by many. This record warrants many repeat listens and it is just as much fun to listen to as it is undoubtedly to perform. Let’s hope this brilliantly fun band continue their winning streak.
Alpha Male Tea Party continue to be one of the most fun bands in their lane