The Black Tulips - The Dogs Home EP
Bill Cummings 31/07/2006
Sometimes a song comes along that totally catches you off guard: remember the first time you heard the barking (overplayed) ridiculousness that is "Bohemian Rhapsody"? Or the immense undulating vocal waves of the Floyd's” The Great Gig in the Sky"? Or the first time you saw Radiohead playing the epic prog monster "Paranoid Android”? Well, the opening track on this EP, from glamorous Brightonians the Black Tulips, has the same "what the hell was that?!" factor.
"The Dogs Home" is a bizarrely unsettling tale full of sexual drama, a greek tragedy that sexualises the canine-like Kate Bush "Hounds of Love", meeting a Hammer Horror soundtrack, beginning with a whirring harpsichord and desperate, swooping vocals ("don't look if you believe in love/ legs astride a scratching post"). As its gathers pace the militaristic rhythm thunders its way across the rooftops of abandoned churches. And then nothing: a stop, a pause for breath, and back into the most glorious of hair raising crescendos, keys, guitars, and repeated operatic refrains ("Don't go to the home alone tonight!") explode in the night sky. This is knowingly pretentious, gothic, histrionic, and quite frankly marvellous, ending with the full stop of a violin, a bewilderingly brilliantly effort, that will either have you laughing you head off or hailing it as genius.
"Lie detector" which was "born from the abhorrence of Jeremy Kyle and his kind" switches musical gears from the opener's rather outlandish ambition. Beginning with a Brass Eye-esque monologue from a rather distorted Jeremy Kylie/Kilroy wannabe, its scratchy post-punk guitar lines, furious rhythms and tinkling pianos punctuate the caustic finger-pointing vocals: front woman Alexandra at one moment assumes the role of a withering observer; the next a guest on a chat show: spitting, swooping and diving into her male pray ("Take a lie detector and make it screech/And undulate across the page/I do not believe you really love me"). It's like The Slits meets early Siouxsie & the Banshees, careering out of control. Simply unhinged.
The closer is "Under the Skin": a magisterial strum allows Alexandra to climb into the words and scratch them apart ("I think I'm a part not a whole/I can't be held but I'll hold"). She really excels herself here, at once venerable and bare, at other moments twisted and pained. It's about the push and pull of love, the juxtaposition of love and heartbreak (“What if its all wrong /Under the Skin”): a stately ballad, to end a fabulous EP.
Off the back of their previous material, some astonishing live performances and now this EP it's clear the Black Tulips are destined to leave their unique imprint on the world. If a major record company wants to take a chance on a band that could literally rip up the rulebook and start again right now, then they should take a chance on the Black Tulips.