The Medicine Dolls - A Compulsion to Ruin [EP] (Cover Artwork)

The Medicine Dolls

A Compulsion to Ruin [EP] (2019)


The current DIY music scene in Cape Town is a rare beast; it’s small and incestuous enough that it avoids many of the fragmented, sectarian pitfalls of similar scenes in North America, but it’s large enough to have an healthy diversity of bands. There are a few hardcore bands, a folk-punk act, some garage bands, a handful of art-punk bands, and so forth. And it’s not uncommon to find them on the same bill.

Of all the bands in this DIY zoo, one that really stands out (and draws crowds) is The Medicine Dolls. Visually, the band commands attention due to frontman Greg Allan’s monumental hairdo; a frizzly, electric work of art that would make Robert Smith and William Reid both buzz their heads in defeat. However, hairdos and outfits are nice but what really makes TMD stand out is their solid songwriting and bombastic live show.

On their latest EP, “A Compulsion to Ruin”, TMD come out guns-blazing. The lead track, “Covered in Filth” explodes with a vintage Rock N Roll riff and a blood-curdling scream before gelling with a classic, pounding, surf-beat. It channels the sleazy, eerie, grime of The Cramps and fuses it with the prehistoric punk thrash of early Clash recordings.

The next track, “I Don’t Want to Dance With You”, offers up more of the same, but with a spooky (Murder City Devils-style) organ thrown into the mix. The song also showcases the dynamics of the dual-vocal capabilities of the band with bassist Bex Nicholas lending her siren voice to the chorus. But at just under the 90-second mark, it's over before it begins.

To close things out, the band blends together the best elements of the previous two songs into one triumphant track. “A Conscript Aiming to Miss” features a driving rockabilly riff, with spooky organs, and dueling vocals. It’s everything a fan of gloomy post-punk could ever want. Bits and pieces of all the greats are here.

With their influences so pronounced, it’s difficult for TMD to carve out a truly original sound. Luckily their technical chops, their wild energy, and their knack for songwriting more than make up for it. If you’re new to The Medicine Dolls, this is a perfect place to start.