The Membranes

Dark Matter/Dark Energy

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"I am unapologetic middle aged f---ed up 21st century man," John Robb bellows on Dark Matter/Dark Energy, the first album in 26 years from U.K. post-punk noise merchants the Membranes, and if that isn't necessarily an autobiographical statement, it certainly seems to suit him and his music. The bass-heavy, profoundly sinister frontal assault of the Membranes' music may be a bit more refined in the year 2015, but not by much; studiocraft seems to have buffed off a few of the group's sharper edges, but both musically and philosophically, this is still the aural equivalent of a mugger hitting you in the face with a length of pipe, confrontational and unashamed. On Dark Matter/Dark Energy, Robb is joined by Nick Brown, who played in the Kiss Ass, Godhead edition of the band in the '80s, as well as Peter Byrchmore and Rob Haynes, the rhythm section from Robb's post-Membranes project Goldblade, and if this lineup seems to be a bit short on historical authenticity, under Robb's tutelage they get the sound and attitude right: aggressive, energetic, and more than a little bit insane as the music pounds, slashes, and throbs while Robb unleashes a steady flow of invective about the many indignities of life in our times. The group explores some gentler song structures in the final third of the album, turning down the tempos and playing with electronic soundscapes and dubwise bass on "5776 (The Breathing Song)" while emulating Eastern modalities on "Magic Eye (To See the Sky)." But the grand finale "The Hum of the Universe" reminds us that chaos is the Membranes' stock in trade, and Dark Matter/Dark Energy is a potent reminder that Robb and his collaborators are still finding their way into the heart of darkness (which isn't too far from their hometown), and sending back compelling reports of what they've seen and heard.

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