The image of a bird entangled in the engine of an aeroplane both invokes a gruesome mess of blood, bone and beak, and is a metaphor for nature colliding with the harsh machinery of man. There’s been a definite hit and for some, tragedy. For that reason Zoey Van Goey should be applauded. As the title of Propeller versus Wings implies, the material on this release is so versatile it’s ultimately found in conflict. If the Glasgow band set out to seriously baffle their audience, they’ve succeeded hands down.
Their second album does not part down the middle to present two opposing sides, as you might expect. Instead it settles into three categories so removed from one another you’ll find yourself bobbing your head in mystified stupidity before the record has peaked. To make matters worse there’s no line to be drawn, no hint that Zoey Van Goey had a pre-conceived notion of the trick they were about to perform. The tracks dash urgently from one style to another, paying no mind to the sanity of the listener nor the coherency of the release. Had this album been organised differently, the results would be very different indeed.
At the very forefront of the mixture, there’s a brash charge at nothing very much; a sound that comes through loud and clear on tracks like ‘The Cake and Eating It’ and ‘Robot Tyrannosaur’. This material embodies a quaint and simple attack on twee rock; the loose limbed results of a drinking binge with Slow Club. Pen can be set to paper and plectrum to string, but the musicians in tow have lost control of their senses. A hapless frolic into mediocrity ensues. Concerningly, the band seem aware of their misadventure – as Matt Brennan casually warbles, “I do the dumbest things for you, why do I do the dumbest things for you? I would be safer on my own” on ‘You Told the Drunks I Knew Karate’. Quite.
The second component lends from the band’s debut The Cage Was Unlocked All Along. Standout track ‘Mountain on Fire’ is a superb opener, drenched in flourishing echoes and crackling drums. Elsewhere the whimsical ‘Extremities’ has a special charm that supersedes its daintiness, and although ‘Escape Maps’ and ‘Where it Lands’ are essentially boring, they invariably belong in the same bracket. These songs prove Zoey Van Goey aren’t lost to modern fancy. Their timeless quality would transcend the scene that envelopes them, were it not for an underlying lacklustre in singer Kim Moore’s vocal.
Finally, sat somewhere in the middle is the hum-drum chuckle of textured, though uninventive acoustic music. ‘Sackville Sun’, ‘My Aviator’, ‘Little Islands’ and ‘Another Day Another Disaster’ spin tales that have been spun before, and bettered by the likes of Monkey Swallows the Universe and Laura Hocking. The genre can be successfully brandished with insightful lyrics, but once again Zoey Van Goey fall back on the intoxicated, lazy merriment that ruins their take on twee rock.
Propeller versus Wings may be a three pronged attack, but only one point penetrates the skin, and even that fails to draw blood. I don’t doubt there’s a rare and exquisite record looming underneath the surface of Zoey Van Goey’s facade, but it’s certainly not come to blossom here.