Semantics’ debut EP promised much, but was plagued by preconceptions. The dapper, dark outfits, propulsive four-string fretwork and bull seal bellows meant the Birmingham four-piece were pigeonholed as post-punk before Peter Hook had chance to have his morning whiskey.
While EP proved much stronger than those assumptions, it is with Acid Test where, fittingly, the band have produced a strong, cohesive collection of songs. The references remain, but the three tracks inside show a band not only adept at intertextualising their influences, but adroit in shaping and contorting them into something highly original. The title track and opener begins with a typically twisting guitar riff, bolstered by wandering bass and Rob Lilley’s punctured prose, an oblique love song destined to enter the twisted pantheon reserved for the likes of ‘Doll Parts’ and ‘I Want You’.
For Acid Test, or AT, seems destined for the bedroom, the parlour where love burns red and anger burns hot. It is not the glamurous, airbrushed sex one might hope to find in their dreams, however – this is desperate longing, animalistic lust and bludgeoned souls. “I need to feel your pity,” Lilley croons on the stomping, beautifully brutalist ‘Another City’, which dissolves into a gorgeous breakdown propelled by Josh Rochelle-Bates’ nimble basswork and the twin tumble of Lilley and Bridie Georgia’s guitars, intertwining like tumultous kites in a darkening sky.
“It is time to assume your place at the head of the table,” eerily drones Lilley on the thrilling, drum-propelled ‘Painless’. If Semantics keep on churning out material as darkly compelling as this, there’ll be no assumptions needed. At last.