A Gut Feeling


Tripe. It's what graces the cover of Cassels' third album, A Gut Feeling. It looks gross. And Cassels are a rock band who've often sounded gross. You know the adjectives. "Discordant". "Angular". "Cynical". Shellac quickly mentioned. Listening to A Gut Feeling, though, Cassels sound different. Not too different -- the molten riff of advance single "Mr Henderson Coughs" puts paid to the idea that the London-based duo have taken a hard 180. But instead of writing as quickly as possible, the Covid-19 pandemic gave the brothers Beck (Jim, guitar/vocals, and Loz, drums/BVs) some time to mull things over. Instead of sticking with the stripped-back recording approach of previous LPs, Jim and Loz spent time at Tom Hill's Bookhouse Studios in South London, considering tone, layering tracks, and bringing new instruments into the fold. Lyrically, the approach has changed too. Rather than presented as personal experience, Jim notes that his words this time around "are an intentionally muddy mix of experience, opinion, red herrings and fiction." The result is the most satisfying and unexpected collection of songs in the Cassels catalog. Instruments at turns razor-sharp and bludgeon-blunt provide the backing track to a savage, hilarious, and tender collection of short stories. Jim notes that "writing can be a great way of unearthing hang-ups and becoming acquainted with your own anxieties." Hardly new ground for a rock band, but presented in this third person format -- unbiased and filled to the brim with human warmth -- these songs are more empathetic than anything the band have written before. It's clear that the band still aren't afraid to tackle weighty subjects too, with A Gut Feeling picking up where their previous album, The Perfect Ending (2019), left off. "Charlie Goes Skiing" pulls a similar trick to Future of the Left's "Goals in Slow Motion" -- setting a screed against consumerism to one of the most propulsive, catchy tracks on the record. It's followed by "Dog Drops Bone", a rustling loop overlaid with sad, simple chords reminiscent of a Sparklehorse tune, which uses the internal monologue of a beloved canine companion to question the true depth and sincerity of human relationships. This kicks into the breakneck "Beth's Recurring Dream" -- a track exploring a sexual identity crisis which owes as much to early Los Campesinos! as it does Steve Albini. Of "Your Humble Narrator", the album's punishing, pulsing opener and A Gut Feeling's thematic frame.