Review: The Van Allen Belt – Meal Ticket To Purgatory

Given the amount of technology currently available to budding artists, will there ever be a chance to invent a new style of music altogether? Well, Pittsburgh’s The Van Allen Belt truly belong in the genre called “unclassifiable” even if they helpfully categorise themselves as “other/psychedelia” on their MySpace site. No matter, their first album could become an obscure classic.

On the one hand there are Tamar Kamin’s vocals and the big Motown production. Then there’s Scott Taylor and his mad skills on the turntables. If you can imagine Phil Spector ever decided to make a soundtrack for a political satire and enlisted The Avalanches to help out, ‘Meal Ticket To Purgatory’ might have been the result. The lyrics are an even more surreal experience. ‘Charity Sex’ seems like a swish swinging Sixties song until you really start to listen to lines like “She already ditched you for another man but I’d stay with you ‘til my final breath. For I’d sooner move to Afghanistan where girls like me get stoned to death”. Clearly something has gone awry in Pittsburgh at some point in time.

It’s a theory borne out several times. The most twisted take on gospel music can be heard on ‘Dr. Layman’s Terms’.  ‘So It Goes’ starts off as the kind of devoted, soulful ballad which Dusty Springfield would have been proud to sing, although she may have objected to the raging guitars and maddening rhythms accompanying her. In fact, each song seems to give out contradictory messages; ‘The Revolution Will Be Merchandised’ is delivered with passion and conviction rather than the sarcasm you’d expect and the lush ‘I Can’t Believe You Murdered Me’ evokes TV themes from the 1960’s like Stingray and even adds a cracking percussive break for good measure. I’m afraid I have no clue what ‘The River Hive’ is about but it’s a fabulously epic pop song nevertheless.

Without a doubt, The Van Allen Belt have made the kind of music which is likely to make people sit up and listen as soon as they hear it. Yet the real achievement of ‘Meal Ticket To Purgatory’ is that it can still cause a thrill even after a few listens; a testament to the durability of these wonderfully odd songs.

Web Sites:
The Van Allen Belt MySpace
Indiecater Label and Shop Site

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