The Alligator Wine – Demons of the Mind Review

Picture a scene of domestic bliss lockdown homelife, as Mrs. Carcharodon enters to the kitchen, where yours truly is playing with the shark pup, and, after a lengthy pause, asks: “Is this one of your promos? It’s actually pretty good—sort of reminds me of Nick Cave in one of his alter egos like Grinderman.” An astute observation and one that got me wondering, what are the limits or boundaries to what we do and do not review here on this ol’ metal review site. I reflected on a few recent reviews of my own, like the delta blues of Little Albert’s Swamp King or instrumental stoner rock of Seven PlanetsExplorer. I ruminated on stunning discoveries that I made at this most hallowed of blogs before I ascended to the enlightened ranks of its writers, like the stunning Demon by that most ill-named of bands Gazpacho. And, after further cogitation, I concluded that I have no idea what makes non-metal bands metal enough for us, so I may as well just get on with reviewing this guitar-less, proggy, dark disco debut from two German dudes working under the name The Alligator Wine.

Hailing from the Black Forest in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg (my father’s home state incidentally), The Alligator Wine profess to play a brand of retro or vintage rock, drawing on influences ranging from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (from whom, I assume, they also borrow their name) to Pink Floyd. The USP? It’s all done without a string in sight. That’s right: no guitar, no bass (well, there’s a Moog bass synth). Not even a ukulele as far as I can tell. Demons of the Mind‘s darkly upbeat grooves are driven entirely by drums and percussion, an organ and synths (despite my ears swearing blind at several points that there bloody must be some sort of stringed instrument at work here!). My initial take on The Alligator Wine was that it sounded a bit like what you might expect if Led Zeppelin and Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band got together for a jam but, upon discovering they’d all forgotten their guitars, decided “fuck it, let’s just make a disco record.”

And although that still resonates with me to a point after a number of spins, Demons of the Mind also has a heavy, and at times surprisingly emotive, prog vibe to “Lorane” and closer “Sweetheart on Fire,” which tempers the upbeat almost-funk of cuts like “Shotgun” (which reminded me how much I used to spin Firewater’s The Ponzi Scheme), “Voodoo” and, in particular, “The Flying Carousel.” Even on “Ten Million Slaves,” The Alligator Wine have a dark, driving beat, edged with a buoyant melody that had me happily nodding along, right until I checked the track title and my befuddled brain slowly tuned into the bleak, sorrowful lyrics…

Let’s be clear so that none of you whiny bastards valued readers leaves here disappointed or feeling you’ve been mis-sold: this is not metal. And I am not suggesting it is. What it is, however, is a fun and effervescent sort-of rock record, that draws on disco beats and even elements of darkwave, while weaving in flashes of prog. With both members of The Alligator Wine contributing vocals, there is an array of—again, for the avoidance of doubt, all clean—styles on show, ranging from the bonkers-ness of the man, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins himself, through Mardi Gras.BB and The Jim Jones Revue to occasional flourishes that reminded me of Glenn Danzig. The master of this record is pretty loud, but it kinda works, given the vibe that The Alligator Wine are rocking.

If you are unsure from the above how much I actually liked The Alligator Wine, that’s not hugely surprising, as I’ve gone back and forth on this myself. My first run through Demons of the Mind’s 43 minutes was pleasant and head-noddy without setting my world alight. A few more spins and I was rapidly approaching the idea that it was an interesting album in theory but rather forgettable in practice. Having now spent quite a bit more time with it—not least because this review is woefully late—I’ve settled on the position that it’s a good but not remarkable record, which has a few standout moments (“Sweetheart on Fire” and “The Flying Carousel,” in particular) that lift it. I will likely sip of The Alligator Wine periodically, rather than consigning Demons of the Mind to the cellars.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: | |
Release Date: April 24th, 2020

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