Tom Ridgewell and Hugh Young are the only two members of Constant Mongrel that also appeared on their 2010 split tape with Taco Leg, which was shithouse. School of Radiant Living’s Amy Hill was added on bass last year, and for this record Taco Leg vocalist Andrew Murray was added on second guitar to flesh out the low and high ends respectively. Hill’s bass is an unsteady and elusive throb, Murray’s guitar is creepy and treble-heavy and the two original members lay down a rabid spine that carries an oozing, low-torque density that is almost exhausting. If the split tape was irritatingly undercooked, this record is at least served at a point where the uncooked flesh carries a sense of hilarious revulsion. I think it’s hard to argue that it isn’t one of the better albums released this year.
Heavy Breathing is a wild-eyed, pill-fucked and perverted record that attacks the highs and lows, the colours and the comedowns, and ravages through moments of overwhelming hysteria before sucking it up and returning to the party. Like last year’s LP Everything Goes Wrong, Constant Mongrel spend time thrashing at the edge of control. There’s no triumph here, but there’s no defeat either; it builds and dies without reaching thematic conclusions, and it captures (possibly unintentionally or just by virtue of referencing the sounds of X, Wire and The Fall) a series of very intense sensations.
I hear humiliation, inconvenient arousal (the irritable throb of much of this record makes the band name feel disturbingly literal to me) and the exact dose of amphetamines or synthetic hallucinogens that makes you think maybe you over-did it a bit. It can be turgid and obscene, but it never feels especially confronting to me. If you have an eight hour trip ahead of you, you can appreciate that the odd bout of hysterical confusion is going to eventually make way for an endorphin hit. Still, it feels like trying to escape your first world agitation by replacing it with hours of paranoia and neuroticism instead. There’s a constant threat of the fun dying off alarmingly quickly.
Thematically, there’s a form of black humour that reveals itself when the threats are funny and the jokes aren’t. Ridgewell at one point chants ad nauseum, “you’re a little boy and you need a smack.” Any humour that lies in that line is quickly killed by its relentlessness, distorting its meaning towards the emasculation of being exposed and looked down upon. There’s humour in Constant Mongrel’s music for sure, but just like the laughter recorded at the end of ‘Reflex’ on last year’s LP, it’s forced and it’s menacing.
Heavy Breathing reminds me of all my favourite things that I never do from nine-to-five on weekdays (like sex and drugs) then it reminds me of the bad parts of those things (like coming down or unexpectedly tearing a muscle). Do you know what kind of person can have a constant mongrel? Perverts. Sex pests. Rapists and pedophiles. The idea of losing control is appealing at the onset of mundanity, but there are people in society who are incapable of gaining control. Constant Mongrel make guitar music that dangles you at the precipice of losing it without ever giving you the cathartic experience of finding out if you made it through or not.
I also spent six minutes waiting to find out if the deep recorded breathing that closes out the album ever finishes. On that, I wouldn’t waste your time.
Constant Mongrel’s Heavy Breathing is available now through Siltbreeze.