Rolo Tomassi - Hysterics (Cover Artwork)

Rolo Tomassi

Hysterics (2008)


Ever wondered what would happen if Paramore suddenly turned into an experimental hardcore band overnight? If they did, they might end up sounding a little bit like Rolo Tomassi. Maybe I'm only making that statement because the band has a female singer, but I think the point still stands. The band is named from the fictional character from "L.A. Confidential" and hail from Sheffield, England, home of the Arctic Monkeys, revealing that fortunately it's a city with a music scene that goes beyond the pale of popular indie. Hysterics is Rolo's debut full-length and is described by the band as 'spazzcore'; I don't know about you, but I hate people who make up new genres by taking a word and adding 'core' to the end, but I'll let them off just this once.

So what about the album? Opening track "Oh, Hello Ghost" is somewhat eerie and a little bit spooky and flows seamlessly into track two, "I Love Turbulence." It's a track which starts out sounding heavy but repetitive, before the introduction of an electro hook which gains more and more speed before breaking down into an absolutely huge breakdown, in what is probably the album's standout moment. But there are some other fantastic manipulations of tempo, power and brutality laced throughout this offering, although some attempts come across as slightly flat and not thought out well enough. Final track "Fantasia" clocks in at a huge 14-plus minutes and comes across as entirely unnecessary to me; it's clearly an attempt to a slow-moving and tempo-building piece but for such a hugely long piece, but there is simply not enough going on to maintain the interest of any listener without the patience of a saint.

With such an experimental outlook to their music, this album could easily have come across as a collection of weird and 'spazzy' tracks. Instead, the entire album flows incredibly well; if you listen to this album from start to finish you will continually struggle to know what track you are on, which leaves the whole thing to come across as a well-thought out package showing a maturity despite the band's young age. Furthermore, long periods of time can pass within some of the tracks without any sort of vocal contribution; despite having a dedicated vocalist, they are happy to let the instruments lead the listener before a release of often brutal hardcore chanting. Frontwoman Eva Spence alternates between her growl and sweetly innocent 'normal voice' whilst male backing vocals provide a little bit of an extra dimension where needed. In terms of similarities and influences, it's hard to pick out direct comparison. Clearly there is a good dose of Sonic Youth present and there are moments which certainly remind me of Between the Buried and Me, but the best reccomendation I can give you is tell you to check it out yourself.

All in all, it's a solid debut and something different. At times, the sound comes together superbly ("Trojan Measures") but occasionally it gets lost in over-technical concentration ("Nine") and the occasional segment is scarred by the fact that the synths start to sound a little bit too much like the soundtrack to a 16-bit Gameboy game ("Abraxas"). Where the band go from here, who knows, but I will certainly be keeping them on my radar.