Album of the Day: Snapped Ankles, “Stunning Luxury”

Now approaching their first decade of existence, London group Snapped Ankles continue to operate from a place of deliberate anonymity. In our 2017 interview, the band discussed their unusual stage outfits (at the time, they were dressing up as trees) and instruments (“log synths” among them). But on their new album Stunning Luxury, the band shift from the grubbily rural to the slickly urban; a few recent photos from their Instagram depict them in light-up suits, stalking subways and cityscapes, and Luxury’s album notes detail the group’s new identities as “property developers and brokers.” A song like “Tailpipe,” based on the song “Millionenspiel” by the legendary German group Can, demonstrates how a sleeker finish and a sharper edge only adds to Snapped Ankles’ aggressive take on new wave motorik.

Lyrically, the album turns a gimlet eye toward not only London’s hypergentrification but the “real estate über alles” attitude of the modern world. (The album’s title comes from a line in “Rechargeable” that sarcastically praises “the stunning luxury of a converted factory.”) Song titles like “Skirmish in the Suburbs,” “Delivery Van,” and “Three Steps to a Development” hint at more overt responses, but the Ankles’ lead vocalist delivers everything with a frenetic fierceness that steers clear of directly shouting slogans, instead favoring oblique lyrics and a nervy yelp. Mass call-and-response exchanges, tight dance rhythms, and quirky hooks add to the album’s dancing-on-the-edge-of-collapse feel. If it sometimes plays like a retooled early ‘80s NYC no wave/dance club crossover, those coincidences aren’t incidental; in unsettled times like these, they are part of the point.

-Ned Raggett

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