We review the new album from Weimar – Dancing On A Volcano
It’s always a pleasure to see an artist gaining recognition for being ‘unclassifiable’, and ‘hard to nail down. These are just some of the things that have been said about Weimar, but does their debut album, Dancing On A Volcano, live up to that?
After a quick and mysterious prelude track to open the album, we’re met with Soho Rain. Straight away there are some very interesting things going on, with a mix of post-punk, indie, new wave, and some jazz elements all rolled into one song. With vocals that are bordering on spoken word, a bass and drum arrangement that wouldn’t sound out of place in a lounge band, and moody guitars that are very post-punk. It’s a song that’s full of a patchwork of different stylings and that somehow all come together to tell a beautiful story, and one that’s crowning moment involves a saxophone just flying in out of nowhere to solidify that jazz and punk mashup beautifully.
The Sociopath is a different beast altogether, and doesn’t cease with the eccentricity Weimar are going for. The vocals are much more sing-song than before, and acoustic guitars carry classic Spanish mariachi style. This influence is felt hard when trumpets join the backing track, with a ridiculous amount of energy and fervour. The whole track feels like a fever dream, with it’s off the wall lyrics and absolutely mind-boggling backing track that is the last thing anyone would expect.
Continuing down the rabbit hole of weird and wonderful we have, I Smashed The Looking Glass. This time there’s a country-rock influence with some ethereal sounding synth hinted at quietly and mysteriously in the background. It’s incredibly playful with its fast-paced gentle drums, borderline insane guitars, and weird use of synth to give an almost novelty song feel. There’s a feeling of it being almost too weird to believe it all, and it may leave the listener with a big old, ‘what did I just listen to’ feeling about them. And with several false endings littered in before descending deeper into the madness, it’s a fair thought to have.
The Hangers-on is another track that continues the trend, showing that Weimar values their unique and raving mad vocalists singing style. The sing-song delivery has a feeling of pantomime to it, and it’s very clear that it’s the cornerstone of how the storytelling of their music is displayed. The Hangers-on is a prime example of this, with its expression of obsessive fans and toxicity amongst followers of bands, celebrities, and any other kind of fandom. There’s a dark undertone to the whole song cause of these lyrics that give a diabolical and uncanny nature to it.
Arandora Star is where the novelty of Weimar’s style starts to wear slightly thin and becomes quite normal. The weirdness loses its shock factor and instead the music becomes much less like a fever dream, and instead, we’re left to just listen to the music. As a song itself, Arandora Star is telling the story of a world war two tragedy. But by the time you’ve heard, ‘the guns were fired, the blood was shed’ for what seems like the fiftieth time, it begins to come off like crass overindulgence. There are some interesting guitar effects in the back half that give a very cool mood piece to the song for sure.
Polished Decay thankfully doesn’t immediately overextend into the prior tracks bloated vocal performance. Letting the wild west influenced guitars and fast paced drums breathe a little more and just have instrumental moments. Proving that sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing at all, and letting the music speak for itself. The saxophone makes a welcome return for a solo as well and really lets some new life into the song.
The next track, Hunters Moon, is the slowest paced track thus far, and is a very moody piece. Still keeping a solid focus on storytelling, but instead it’s now wrapped in a noir styled track that’s a slow burn to the finish line. And with, what’s at this point, usual Americana throwback styled guitar, it’s a surprisingly poignant track.
Dialling back up the tempo is Faded Queen Of The Night. Rather than setting it back to a fever pitch though, it keeps that dial up a bit more of a slow ramp up. And apart from a fresh and interesting flute arrangement along with some world music influence that can’t quite be nailed down it’s very samey to a lot of what’s come before.
Nights In Spanish Harlem, unsurprisingly brings back the Mariachi band influences, with quirky and fast paced acoustic guitar and drums that match the mood. But just before you thought it couldn’t get any weirder, an oboe joins the party just to completely throw off the listener even harder. It’s certainly going to be the first time a lot of people have heard an oboe being incorporated into a bands lineup. It does give the track a very unique feel and makes it one of the albums better tracks.
Heaven On High Street East once again drops the feel back a ballad style track. And whilst the storytelling is on point as it has been for pretty much has been for the entire album. The lyrics do stumble hard early on, with a very forced rhyme of ‘onions’ and ‘scorpion’. Despite that minor stumble, it’s a fantastic showcase of the dichotomy of what we see on social media compared to what happens behind closed doors.
The Tatterdemalions is the final track, and opens cleverly with the drumbeat of the opening Prelude track. Having been preceded by the longest track on the album, it’s a short and sweet track by comparison. Utilising flutes and and some Irish folk influence. It’s definitely one of the more unique tracks, but leaves most of it’s message up for interpretation rather than the cut and dry stories we’ve heard for the majority of the album.
Dancing On A Volcano is certainly an album that’s filled with its share of uniqueness and quirks. And it does indeed live up to the reputation that Weimar have fostered as being unclassifiable. The best way to describe it, is post-punk with storytelling pantomime style lyrics and world music influence. And that’s just boiling it down to the core components. As an actual piece, it can come off as an overindulgent and slightly wanky mess at times given it’s eccentricity. But there are other moments where the musicianship really does shine, particularly when instruments you just never expect to be there pop in for a featured moment before disappearing for the rest of the album. Whilst it’s not going to please everyone, and no doubt will be very dependent on the listener, there’s no doubt that the people who like this album will absolutely adore it.