Edginess caked with pop

Joker’s latest EP reaches for newer, poppier heights.


Last year, a 17-year-old Liam McLean, better known by his stage name Joker, told the Guardian: “If you want to make music go and live at Mum’s! I prefer that to making money. We’re all just going to die anyway.

This advice may seem a tad morbid at first but it explains the mindset of youth and the freedom that comes with that. However, it seems he went against his own advice after releasing his debut album TheVision on classic indie label 4AD (once the home of guitar shredding music built on The Pixies and The Cocteau Twins). It would seem that the Joker had taken the record company bait; allowing his production skills as a grime and dubstep artist to become caked and clouded with aspirations for pop and dance commerciality.

This latest release, the Phoenix EP, is on his own Kapsize label and feels like a welcome return, with huge slabs of Korg Triton strings interwoven with cool pizzicato stabs and heaped onto a glitchy dubstep beat. There is no better track than No Face to show these production skills off. It sounds like the Bond soundtrack yet to come, dystopian and muscular as it bounces and skips from thick cinematic sounds to breezy grimy funk. It’s masterful in its execution and subtle in its balance.

Only You has the same edgy cinematic feel but slips easily into conventional R&B with synth stabs and cut up vocals being a reminder that perhaps the lure of the coin is a little important to this young man.

We are all just going to die…” It sounds like something The Joker might say, it definitely sounds the like the way this Joker should play.

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