The Membranes New Album — What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away
PHOTO CREDS: John Middleham
With the recent wake-up calls to the current climate crisis, The Membranes newest album What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away is the perfect accompaniment to these alarm bells. After four decades since the band’s conception, The Membranes are not strangers to what it takes to make an album, nor a soundtrack of the time for that matter, and with their newest release, they really show this is off in an epic 16-track double feature that takes on a new war-cry: the environment.
With a background in rebellion, its no surprise that these musical anarchists would tackle concerns with the Earth’s conditions and how we look after our home gave the current climate – quite literally. To do so, the foursome looks at the natural yin and yangs of our immediate surroundings and find inspiration from such dualities as life and death, technology and nature, light and dark. Utilising more operatic overtones and a twenty-piece choir, the band take on this topic with unashamed grandeur. They also incorporate some unusual celeb guests such as Chris Packham – who’s quite the punk apparently – folk singer Shirley Collins, Kirk Brandon from the Theatre of Hate and punk icon (and best friend of frontman John Robb) Jordan.
With humble beginnings The Membranes haven’t always been able to make such anthemic masterpieces, instead – like many real punks – they started off as a DIY band quite literally making records themselves and spending endless hours in phonebooths trying to get their name heard. Miles away from the “major” music scene, the then young lads from up north, Blackpool to be specific, were left to go rogue and make music for themselves without the refuge of art school or the convenience of living in Soho. Inspired by the homemade Spiral Scratch EP by the Buzzcocks, The Membranes were utterly enamoured with punk and the idea that Northerners can do it for themselves. Then bang, out came their first recording. While it wasn’t easy for the band to break the mould, their succession in the punk and the post-punk scene didn’t go unnoticed and they continued to make music into the late 80s.
After line-up mix-ups, a disbanding and a reunion in 2010, The Membranes remain figureheads for punk attitude both past, present and future. They refuse to take a hubristic back-seat and mock newcomers’ attempts to make new sounds, instead, they continue to get their hands dirty and dive deep into the extremities and new directions of music. Four years after the release of their most recent album Dark Matter/Dark Energy, What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away is certainly a highly anticipated coalescence of genres from post-punk motifs and heavy metal stylings to psychedelic beaks and conceptual explorations of sound. It’s matured and youthful at the same time, almost paralleling nature’s life-cycle showing that from what is past comes a seed for something new.
Without giving too much away before the album’s release, What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away opens as it means to go on – on a monumental scale. Opening with the broody track ‘A Strange Perfume’, the album straight away introduces to themes of nature and uncanny beauty. Before you know it you are knee deep in conceptual tour de forces with tracks like ‘The City Is An Animal (Nature Is Its Slave)’, ‘A Murmuration Of Starlings On Blackpool Pier’, before arriving full circle back to more traditional post-punk stylings with songs like title-track ‘What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away’ and ‘Demon Seed/Demon Flower.’ ‘Snow Monkey’ is one track that should be listened out for and is perhaps the most emblematic of the band’s punk legacy as a track that attacks the compliance with the damaging status quo — an exaggerated nod to their punk roots while leaning heavily on heavy metal rhythms.
By the end of the album, the listener is reminded of their humanity. Not of its unnecessary cruelty or the futility of living in the 21st Century as it is currently known, but of its “irrefutable connection to the natural world” – in the words of Chris Packham. The album’s purpose and quite possibly most intuitive function is to grab its listeners by the eardrums and shake them. The track ‘Winter (The Beauty and Violence of Nature)’ truly embodies the evocation for humanity to be aware that its “fundamentally greatest mistake is that it denies” this is intrinsic dependence and connection with nature and the planet. Now is the time to drop our arms against the land that bore us and embrace it for all its wild ways.
In this new exploration of where the punk spirit can go, The Membranes have found themselves replicating the rebellious will of nature in both a quintessential orchestral and revolutionary way. While they remain relics of the early days of punk, they continuously move with the times, like the vines of a historic plant that resurface only to overrun long-standing structures to create something new entirely.
The album drops in June, but you can pre-order it now here: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/membranes-what-nature-gives-nature-takes-away-cd/
Read our interview with the great mind behind the Membranes, John Robb here: http://www.underground-england.co.uk/news/punk-attitude-and-its-eternal-flame-a-chat-with-john-robb/
Follow The Membranes here: https://www.facebook.com/theMembranes/
Words by Aimee Williams-Maynard