We were going to say we’d never heard The Membranes but looking on Wikipedia we have — they are a post-punk band formed in Blackpool in 1977, and their first release was the Flexible Membrane flexi-disc in 1980, which we bought and still have somewhere. The band included John Robb, who we always think of as a writer but he is also vocalist in the punk rock band Goldblade, as well as bassist and vocalist in the now-revived Membranes.
In 2009 the band was asked to reform for the ATP music festival, curated by My Bloody Valentine and in June 2015 released an album called Dark Matter/Dark Energy on Cherry Red and it seems to have been pretty good.
The album was built around a Universe Explained gig they did, where they got Higgs Boson scientists to explain the universe. The album was launched with a gig at the top of Blackpool Tower.
This new album is a remix of Dark Matter/Dark Energy with mixes from Manic Street Preachers, Einsturzende Neubauten, Bad Seeds, Therapy, Killing Joke, Phillip Boa, Reverend And The Makers, Keith Levene, The Pop Group, Godflesh, Clint Mansell, Cosey Fanni Tutti and others.
It is both a corker of an album and hard to review. You want melodic rock? Pop? Ambient? Croaky harmony? Full bore punk? It’s all here; it’s barking but brilliant and it works.
The excellent sleeve notes make the point that punk (a genre no-one can agree on, and could argue about all day) and the science of the origins of the universe (ditto) are very similar, so what’s more logical than to combine the two. The album is about the “mind-blowing” conversations that can be had about science and, presumably, punk when viewed through the lens of the true punk/DIY ethos. As the discovery of the universe is about re-invention, why not a remix album, a body of work re-invention?
It opens with The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light (James Dean Bradfield), which has a shambolic choral intro but then goes a bit psychedelic, with massive guitar solo.
Dark Energy (Mark Lanegan) is darker psychedelic rock — the album is a pleasing mix of Ozric Tentacles, Here and Now (English psychedelic/space rock who worked with Gong’s Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth under the name Planet Gong), Gang of Four and someone more modern; Nine Inch Nails maybe.
Do The Supernova is a more aggressive punk (Gang of Four-ish) song but then a second remix of The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light (Clint Mansell) is half classical, half ambient.
Rather like a black hole, this is an album you could get sucked into and have your brain stretched out to infinity. It renders comparisons for album of the year superfluous, too — how could an album this interesting, intellectual, challenging and enjoyable not be album of the year? But then how can you compare this to Bruno Mars? It’s like comparing Evolution of the Species to 50 Shades of Grey.
If you consider yourself a fan of music, you need to buy this.