WatchingCattle on Tin Charm‘s recently-released debut, The Engine Is Bleeding.
There are many ways of eating chocolate. In fact there are many ways of eating specific bars of chocolate – some of which seem to have become the ‘right’ way to eat those bars. Especially where a cup of tea is involved. Time Outs for example are, according to many, best eaten if the ends are bitten off and the tea is sucked up through the remaining bar as though it were a straw made of confectionery. I find this completely disgusting and tend to go for the option of biting off the top and bottom wafer and then eating the middle bit (essentially the Flake bit) last. Sure I could just buy a Flake, but it wouldn’t be the same. There’s the ceremony involved in eating some types of chocolate. Biscuits too. I used to dissect my Jaffa Cakes. Eating the sponge first, then the chocolate and finally the orange goo. I get the impression that the makers of chocolate have noticed this tendency to dissect these tasty treats because Mars adopted the bite off the nougat bit and eat the caramel and thick chocolate top bit to make their Mars Caramel – which is basically the caramel and chocolate bits but without the nougat. But that bar is not as good as you’d think. And a Flake isn’t as good as a Time Out and if you could get a bag of Jaffa Cake middle bits I’m not sure I could even stomach the look of that, never mind the taste. How would you market such a thing…“Hey you! Fat Fuck!! Here’s some goo!! Eat it Fatty!!”. The fact is that the ceremony – the nibbling, the tea-dunking – it’s all part of the luxury of a chocolate bar or biscuit. Everything has to be present in the right amount. Too much caramel and your lunch break is a stringy, melty disaster and your beard is attracting birds on the way back to the factory. Too little and what was the fucking point in the first place? If I wanted to feel healthy I would have had a salad. Honestly, who thinks granola is a treat anyway? Unless it’s covered in chocolate it’s just a chore. Stop pricking around in the confectionery section granola and take L Casei immunitas with you. If I want a drinkable yogurt I want junkie juice like Yop. I want something evil and sweet and cheap feeling. It’s a treat damn it! Stop trying to guilt me into staying alive too long. I’ve seen Amour and I’m terrified now. More cigarettes and more fat. I don’t want to waste away too slowly thanks. I’m going out like a well dunked Time Out – in a blaze of soggy, melting wafer-based muckiness. I want parts of me found at the bottom of life’s rich cup, swallowed in a gulp down the neck of whatever the next plane of existence is, all in one go.
Tin Charm have made a record you know, and it’s called The Engine is Bleeding. It’s satisfying enough, but not quite the full Mars bar, cup of tea, bag of Tayto combo – which is a pity because it has a lot of good ingredients in there.
To be honest I really wanted to love The Engine Is Bleeding, The opening song which on my promotional copy is called “SN-24b-44K” (I’m not totally sure it’s meant to be called that and I know a quick google might prove this hypothesis, but I’m the type of lad who talks about Mars bars when he should be working so I can’t be bothered) shimmies along with a nice mid-nineties shuffle. It’s melodic and warm and pulls out all the right tricks to ease you into the record as a whole. In fact, it’s a pretty perfect microcosm for the whole record. All the right ingredients are here: sweet melodies; warm minimal production; chiming distorted guitars. It’s not the most original sounding thing in the world, sure, but it is catchy, familiar and in short ‘warm’. It’s simplistic in intention, structure and execution and it works. Herein lies the rub though. All too often the album sounds a little too familiar. Songs here have excellent sections – short and sharp parts that are arresting and transcend garden variety ingredients by sheer charm alone. However, as a whole, the album suffers from too many sections which are too commonplace. There are breaks which don’t need to be in there, a lot of mid 90s style ‘quiet bit – build up – loud bit’ sections to which, all too often, I found myself wincing as though I were watching another attempted Arsenal through ball and going “Pfft, telegraphed it!”. It becomes a bit too predictable too quickly and as a result the parts here that do work never get the chance to build up much steam. That’s my main problem with The Engine is Bleeding – it never really gets its rocks off. It never blasts itself down the dual-carriageway with its speakers blaring like a Saturday morning road trip. Instead it’s a stop-start affair, stuck in traffic on the way to work of a Friday morning. It’s on the way to the weekend but it’s not quite there yet. If they drive like they write songs, it’s no wonder their engines are bleeding. For me it’s a case of trying too hard at varying the songs dynamics and in doing so curtailing the bands major engaging point. They write good melodies, can rock when they want to and the songs do have a charming presence to them. On the other hand, without any of the dynamic shifts that are here, the album would surely end up as a stodgy as a bag of Jaffa Cake goo. For me it’s a shame because, like I said, after the first song I really wanted to love the whole record.
This record is not going to change the world but it certainly has its moments. The problem, I suppose, is balance. If rocking out were caramel what you have here is a Boost bar when it could easily have made it all the way to the upper echelons…to the realm of the Mars bar. The Engine Is Bleeding has all the right ingredients but just doesn’t quite manage to deliver a piece of confectionery that ever lets you forget why the Mars bar is king.
In the end The Engine is Bleeding is a short blast of mid-90’s American-leaning chocolate snack – best enjoyed on a lunch break with a cup of tea. It’s all a bit nice…a bit healthy option…a bit granola. Sure it’s enjoyable, but it never lets you forget that you could be eating a Mars bar.
This article was brought to you by the letter Q, the number 4 and the Mars Corporation. Helping you work rest and play since 1932.