Albums of 2012 pt. 3 - Pulse Wrist - Majestic Cocktail
Majestic Cocktail struck such a chord with me that, since its release, I think I've read absolutely every existing review that happened to have been written in English. Frequently, this was an act of masochism on my part, as many of the reviews didn't have a single good thing to say about the album. But it's funny. Those who poured scorn upon the album highlighted exactly the same things as those who praised it. Horses for courses: for some “ironic detachment” is to be praised; for others it's unforgivable. Some people seem to really dig retro-revivalism, whilst others choose to view it as shameful weakness.
All reviews, though, be they positive or negative, were ultimately frustrating for exactly the same reason. Every single one of them missed the point, proving that good copy is no substitute for good research; and that critics will write furiously in the face of fact if it will make them appear discerning.
When presented with an album called Majestic Cocktail by a band called Pulse Wrist – an album full of tinny gated drums, trebly guitar solos, barely audible bass and screamed vocals – it seems that everyone immediately decided that this was an exercise in “irony” by a bunch of “hipsters”. The images of the band – all leather straps, studs and perms – and the fact that they didn't even get their own name right on the cover - only served to confirm this notion. For some this was manna, for others it was a red rag. Pulse Wrist stepped into the daylight in the dual roles of lambs to the slaughter and flavour of the week. Never have the words “emperor's new clothes” been written with more frequency and with more wilful ignorance.
For the truth is, Pulse Wrist don't purport to be a band from the 80s, they are a band from the 80s, trimmings and all.
That they released a string of albums between 1981 and 1985 seems to have escaped everyone. Of course, by no means were these albums well-received by press or public, but still, they existed. And with such names as Viking Metalstorm, Pendle Bitch Trials, Spitfire Love Throttle and Hammer Be Thy Name, I'm genuinely shocked that not one person seems to remember their existence. Seriously, not a single review so much as alludes in passing to their 80s heyday. Surely the names alone should have rung a bell somewhere? And does nobody remember ever having seen Pulse Wrist live?
The truth is, in 1985, just as they were about to embark upon their first ever US tour, under mysterious circumstances all five members of Pulse Wrist – along with their producer – suddenly and simultaneously entered a comatose state. It's not clear as to why this happened; the liner notes don't reveal much. Perhaps their tour bus overturned, or maybe a shared experiment in chemical mind expansion went awry. In any case, they collectively regained consciousness late last year, and it's my understanding that they headed into the studio the second they'd coaxed their limbs from atrophy with the intention of rocking out like it's 1985.
So if Majestic Cocktail sounds like it's made by people who haven't heard any music since 1985, that's because it is made by people who haven't heard any music since 1985. None of what you hear is at all contrived. This is genuinely how they think music should sound. This is music made by ardent devotees to the church of rock who have never heard Metallica, Nirvana, Radiohead, Pearl Jam or The White Stripes. As a result, despite being some 25 years out of date, there's a strange and unique freshness to Majestic Cocktail.
Which is why, despite the fact that 80s hair metal does basically nothing for me, I can't help but love Majestic Cocktail. I hear it and I wince; but I also hear a sincere innocent passion that's all but lacking in the vast majority of modern music. In a world where the default stance is ironic detachment, Pulse Wrist could be a genuine force for good – a reminder that there's more to life than sneering cynicism.
And that they were either ripped to shreds or praised for all the wrong reasons I think says it all.