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The Armed - ULTRAPOP (Album Review)

Friday, 16 April 2021 Written by Sam Sleight

Photo: Trevor Naud

Bands often utilise anonymity as a gimmick. It’s passé, pretentious and really quite irritating. Well, it is when most bands do it. On their last record ‘Only Love’, The Armed hid themselves—identities, band dynamics—and their love of pop culture behind such dense layers of distortion that their bubblegum sensibilities were overwhelmed by filth.

But with the release of All Futures, the first single from the collective’s latest LP ‘ULTRAPOP’, The Armed gave up the ghost. We found out who the anonymous hyper-punk collective were. Yeah, right. While there’s still an overwhelming sense we’re being misdirected and lied to, sonically this unerringly prescient record does give us more information about the group than ever before. In one word its title summarises the outfit’s ethos, aesthetic and sonic trappings.

While the pulsing, shimmering synths and sub drops of the title track and the rambunctious infectiousness of All Futures point to a more palatable, less surreptitiously pop-leaning version of The Armed, tracks like Masunaga Vapors and Big Shell signal a retention of their earlier noisy chaos.

We’re a long way from 2010’s ‘Common Enemies’, no doubt, but the layer of sleazy gain maintains the band’s vital uniqueness and mystery.

Though breakbeats and abundant clean vocals bring this latest noise-pop workout a more overtly mainstream flavour, a penchant for scabrous soundscapes juxtaposed with comforting melodies persists.We may have names and faces to hand at this point, but there are no answers as to who or what The Armed are. At points sounding like two different bands vying for space on one LP, ‘ULTRAPOP’ is a gloriously messy, maximalist explosion. 

By presenting the extremes of counterculture through a prism of mainstream influences, it is simultaneously just like a lot of things you have heard before in alternative music, and also unlike anything else out there. The fetishizing of genre tags is clearly anathema to their process, and detrimental to their concept. The Armed instead deserve to be hailed as one of the most exciting forces in rock. Whatever that means.

The Armed Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat October 09 2021 - BRISTOL Exchange
Sun October 10 2021 - BIRMINGHAM Dead Wax
Mon October 11 2021 - DUBLIN Whelans
Tue October 12 2021 - MANCHESTER YES
Wed October 13 2021 - GLASGOW Nice n' Sleazy
Thu October 14 2021 - LEEDS Boom
Fri October 15 2021 - LONDON Moth Club
Sat October 16 2021 - BRIGHTON Green Door Store

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