Scanners' vaguely ominous, one-word band name and the moody, grey-on-black album artwork for their debut album, Violence Is Golden, suggest that they're a part of the post-punk/new wave revival that has dominated the U.K. music scene for a good chunk of the 2000s. The album's first few tracks certainly back that feeling up: "Joy" sidles in on sleek synths before turning into a tightly wound, angular rocker, while "In My Dreams," an ethereal but intense late-night ballad, seems tailor-made for fashionable brooding. But as Violence Is Golden unfolds, Scanners prove that they're quirkier and more eclectic than many of their contemporaries. Even their more typical takes on the post-punk sound have a distinctive stamp, particularly on the surprisingly earnest single "Lowlife." Over looping, breathy background vocals and filigrees of strings, singer Sarah Daly asks "I know you're not ready to live/Are you ready to die?" with results that are just as stylish as they are affecting. Daly's vocals alternate between a sharp yelp pitched somewhere between PJ Harvey and Siouxsie Sioux, imbuing lyrics like "I'm in love with my digital toy" with a lot more passion than might be expected, and a husky coo that adds sophistication to songs such as the aforementioned "In My Dreams." It's her versatility as a vocalist that allows Scanners to pull off some of the riskier choices they make later on Violence Is Golden. The largely acoustic "Evil Twin," with its exotic percussion and smoky melody, exudes a witchy sensuality. "Look What You Started," meanwhile, goes in a completely different direction, offering bittersweet, piano-driven pop that sounds like it's been channeled from a different decade than the rest of the album. The band also shows a flair for the theatrical on both "High Flier," a song so mischievously spooky that it could appear in a Tim Burton film, and the title track, which ends the album with enough drama and glamour to make it a Bond theme from a parallel universe. Scanners try on a lot of different sounds for size over the course of Violence Is Golden and nearly all of them fit, albeit in unexpected, appealingly iconoclastic ways. Their best songs feel like the work of a band with more than just one album under its collective belt, and the detours Violence Is Golden takes make it a far more interesting and memorable debut than if they'd just picked one sound and stuck to it.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares