The choice of title for Diagonal People’s debut release seems quite resonant considering what is found within. Classical scholars will know The Odyssey as that meandering ten-year adventure which took its homeward bound hero through unexpected trials and tribulations. Readers of more modern works might recall Ulysses (the Roman name for the same) a challenging and meandering book, which took most people almost as long to read. So it is quite apt that within the wonderful abstract daubing of the albums artwork there is a musical journey just as creative, adventurous and confrontational as its name implies.
Whilst many of their fellow musicians seem content to play by the rules and head off down commercially viable indie avenues, fame and fortune and maybe even a Maida Vale session glittering in the distance, The Diagonals are happy to make noise-art for art’s sake. They play musical magpie liberally plundering anything and everything that takes their fancy, r’n’b grooves, overdriven Zappa-esque urges, squalling post-punk experimentations, classical subversions, broken synth pop and beyond but it is in the re-assembling of such building blocks which is where the true brilliance lies.
As one form, genre or style is gently shifted, layered, segued and subverted by the next, the whole history of pop music is ripped up and stuck back together before your very ears. Some bands take a career to complete such a task, others whole albums…these guys do it in just one song. That song is Ballad (Screaming Through Milk White Teeth.) As a centrepiece of the album it is perfect and sees them at their most searching, most challenging, most subversive, most brilliant.
But this is merely the most dominant point in a musical landscape of lofty peaks and strange and beautiful vistas that surround it. Some, such as Heaven, Hold Me Down Here are soothing and easy on the eye; others such as Child of the Interdimensional Landscape are more twisted and angular but never is the view the same in any given direction.
For a debut album it contains such complexity, broad range of reference and widescreen musicality and their learning curve seems to have been hidden from view and what has been delivered is already a fully formed and mature sounding album. They rant on society, the human condition and strange existential thought, life, the universe and …well, everything. They mix seriousness with satire, obscurity with clarity, poignancy and pretention. But pretension is fine when it is done knowingly (…and I should know) and this gang of creative misfits know exactly what they are doing.