Formats and Editions
If Talk Show’s exhilarating full-length debut, Effigy, feels more like a film than an album, that’s no coincidence. The band crafted the collection to soundtrack to a fictional nightclub. “One of the biggest influences on this record was the intro to the movie Blade, where this character’s being dragged through a meatpacking plant and into the vampire rave,” says frontman Harrison Swann. “There’s so much tension and anticipation and intimidation in that scene. We wanted to create the kind of music we’d play if we were performing in that club, to put ourselves into that scene and see how far we could push it.” With Effigy, Talk Show do more than just push their sound; they completely reinvent it. Produced by Remi Kabaka Jr., of Gorillaz, the record offers up a bold and exhilarating showcase for the band’s dramatic evolution, drawing on everything from The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy to Nine Inch Nails and The KLF as it taps into a raw, primal sound at the intersection of techno, electronic, industrial, and rock music. The songs are dark and gritty, fueled by blistering guitars and explosive drums, and Swann’s vocals are nothing short of hypnotic, leaning on repetition and restraint to reach for transcendence in the midst of swirling sonic chaos. The result is an immersive, multi-sensory experience, one that conjures up a dark, sweaty warehouse packed with moving bodies all radiating heat and desire, anxiety and release, ecstasy and desperation. “When people talk about dance music, they often talk about escapism or freedom or drugs, but to me, that’s a really reductive view,” says Swann, a Manchester native. “I’ve been in some sketchy clubs where I’ve been scared shitless. We wanted this music to embody all of it.” Hailed as one of the UK’s most exciting new bands, Talk Show first came together in 2017, when Swann met bassist George Sullivan, drummer Chloe MacGregor, and guitarist Tom Holmes at Goldsmiths, University of London. A series of critically acclaimed singles and raucous live shows led to the band’s internationally lauded debut EP, These People, which arrived in March of 2020, just as the entire world shut down. By the time the pandemic had subsided enough for Talk Show to properly tour the collection, though, the group had already begun to move on creatively, trading in the brash post-punk of their early work for a ferocious, guitar-driven vision of dance music that would help earn them festival slots everywhere from Pitchfork Avant-Garde to Sonic Wave in addition to a four-star review from the NME for their 2022 follow-up EP, Touch The Ground. “The shift in sound wasn’t so much about changing who we were as it was about finding ourselves as a band,” Swann reflects. “It just felt like the most natural thing in the world to us, and we’re never going back.” The transition led the group’s writing process became inherently more collaborative, and when it came time to begin work on Effigy, MacGregor and Sullivan often found themselves laying the groundwork for songs, generating high-energy grooves for Swann and Holmes to build layers and textures over. The band created an imaginary club to help guide the sessions, too, naming it Effigy (something to be worshipped and despised at the same time) and visualizing every detail from the ground up. What would it look like? Where would it be located? How would it feel to wait in line? To walk through the doors? Once recording was complete, Talk Show teamed up with director Ashley Rommelrath to bring their visuals to life, designing gatefold artwork depicting the club as a physical place and shooting a series of videos set inside. “I’m reluctant to call it a concept album because these aren’t narrative songs,” Swann reflects. “I’ve never been the kind of writer to spell everything out. I’d always rather build a world and set an atmosphere and let you lose yourself inside of it.” Press play on Effigy and it won’t take long. Pulsating opener “Gold” sets the scene, with relentless drums and bruising, distorted guitars pumping like adrenaline through your veins as Swann implores you to “just feel it / just feel it” with escalating fervor. Like much of the album, it’s a song rooted in ambivalence and delivered with a snarl; there’s a sense of menace in Swann’s delivery, an uneasy feeling that things could turn dark at any moment. The taut “Oh! You’re! All! Mine!” flirts with disaster, while the breakneck “Red/White” spirals into oblivion, and addictive lead single “Closer” edges towards an ecstasy that seems perpetually out of reach. “We get closer and closer / closer and closer /closer and closer / over again,” Swann sings, repeating the passage a half dozen times with an increasingly manic intensity. “Utilizing that kind of repetition allows me to build a rhythm and raise the stakes and put new meaning into the line each time,” he explains. “Working with Remi really helped me harness how much nuance I could put into my phrasing, how much more powerful it could be to whisper than to shout.” Such nuance is ultimately at the core of Effigy, which rewards repeated listens with subtle shading hewn into its imposing walls of sound. Listen closely and you’ll hear hints of trip-hop, flashes of heavy metal, even touches of new wave and funk. The incendiary “Got Sold” tips its cap to the Beastie Boys; the entrancing “OIL” nods to Tricky. It’s album closer “Catalonia,” though, that takes the biggest chances, playing out like a pulse-pounding journey from room to room through the Effigy club as Swann delivers a mix of muted vocals and heavy breathing. “We wanted to take you from standing outside in the freezing cold straight into the heart of the sweatbox,” Swann explains, “straight into the warm glow of the club.” In typical Talk Show fashion, the ending is an ambiguous one. “Maybe we’re alone,” Swann sings on a loop, his voice disappearing into the ether as the beat forges inexorably on. Perhaps we’ve lost him in the crush of the crowd; perhaps his voice was in our head all along. Either way, there’s no going back.