Cardiff noiseniks MCLUSKY seem to have been loitering with intent on the verges for what seems an aeon now, but in reality the splendidly-titled, font-defying "The Difference Between You & Me Is That I'm Not On Fire" is actually only their third album and the first to feature new drummer Jack Egglestone's fine, Dale Crover-style pounding.
Recorded with Steve Albini's usual uncompromising pizazz at Chicago's Electrical Audio, "The Difference..." finds Mclusky unleashing an even heavier sound than usual that revels in both gleefully cutting itself on the jagged edges and - brilliantly - also clawing out space for a few (whisper it) rather more accessible, pop-addled asides.
Not that you'd notice it initially. The album kicks off with the suitably apocalyptic "Without Msg I Am Nothing" and its' trademark fractured nerve guitar,massive cave-dwelling drums and Jon Chapple's billowing bass spewing out the best rhino fart four-string invective since the days of World Domination Enterprises. The message is quickly reinforced by the growling, bass-heavy recent single "That Man Will Not Hang", which rolls along with the vigour of a Chieftain tank taking out a street of Trabants.
Actually, as you delve deeper into the album for tracks like the rumbling "KKKitchens What Were You Thinking" (sic) and the stoked'n'spiked mini-anthem "Icarus Smicarus" (all together now: "Get out of those shoes and grow wings, dear!"), you realise that Mclusky actually have a far greater kinship with the likes of wrongly forgotten turn of the '90s margin dwellers like Death By Milkfloat and Wreck (anyone remember their excellent, Albini-produced "Soul Train" from 1990?) than most of the post-Millennial competition, yet they've shot it through with adrenaline-soaked urgency and the end results are usually pretty damn gripping and entirely contemporary here.
But we heard you mention unlikely terms like 'accessible' and 'pop-addled', I hear you cry. Yup, ya did, and it's all true. For all the proof you need, try both "She Will Only Bring You Happiness" and "Forget Him, I'm Mint". The former is a Wire-meet-Wedding Present slice of oddball pop which culminates in a joyous chorus of "our old singer is a sex criminal" (c'mon, singalong!), while "Forget Him, I'm Mint" features some splendid, Calexico counterpoint trumpets from Shellac's Bob Weston and is the best song to mention thorazine since The Ramones' "Every Time I Eat Vegetables It Makes Me Think Of You". There can be no higher accolade.
It doesn't all work quite so well. Indeed, this writer could do without a few of the less inspired workouts like the nondescript wittering of "Your Children Are Waiting For You To Die" and the tiny-noodling-erupts-into-sonic-hurricane-plan of "Slay!" has been done to death at this stage. However, they sensibly keep a couple of further primed nailbombs in reserve thanks to "1956 And All That" (a comment on the Hungarian uprising?) and the furious "Falco Vs. The Young Canoeist" where singer/ guitarist Andy Falkous sounds like he's scouring his own throat out. Excellent.
"The Difference Between You & Me Is That I'm Not On Fire", then, is Mclusky at both their most persuasive and heaviest yet and is mostly a fine, brain-flaying forty minutes. The spiky, post-punk wagon continues to roll on wheels worthy of reinvention.