Swiftly dismissed by detractors as couture copyists, it’s all too easy to be wary of S.C.U.M.’s aesthetic. The intelligentsia-shagging name (taken from Valerie Solanas’s incendiary feminist manifesto The Society for Cutting Up Men), the oblique sleeve art, and the penchant for vintage vestments, make for a recipe of style over substance. Factor in the bloodline shared with fellow psych-synthers The Horrors– the bassists are brothers – and you can see why it’s so tempting to brand them as pretentious chancers, playing dress-up rock’n’roll, but these dismissals are short-sighted and downright dumb.
S.C.U.M., like The Horrors on Primary Colours, have proven their critics wrong in the most effective fashion: by making great music. Again Into Eyes is a piece of work that proves the band should be taken seriously, and with songs as enthralling as ‘Faith Unfolds’ and ‘Days Untrue’, it’s hard to understand why they ever weren’t. The influences are worn on their sleeves, with ‘Cast Into Seasons’ lifting the drum line straight from Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’, and ‘Summon the Sound’ droning on in a way Liars would be proud of. It’s a sort of genealogical run-down of post-punk that is always homage and never pastiche.
That’s not to say it’s a record devoid of its own inventive merit: ‘Paris’ – probably the album’s best track – is so mournfully understated that it almost punctures the lucid blissfulness conjured the albums preceding seven tracks. Elsewhere, ‘Sentinal Bloom’ swirls around for a bit, before unfurling itself into an aggressive pummel-punch of shoegaze. What makes the album a player in its own right, and not just another example of the foibles of record-collector rock is the overarching noir-esque mise-en-scene that punctuates the songs. Where The Horrors’ latest effort, Skying, can be seen as an album of Technicolor spectacle, Again Into Eyes is instead an album with a monochrome palate – it’s music to soundtrack lovers canoodling in dodgy, smoke-filled cinemas, shutting themselves away from the garishness of the outdoors.
It’s a mood that reaches its culmination on final track and lead single ‘Whitechapel’ – you didn’t think that a band with jeans that tight wouldn’t name-check East London did you? – where the tawdry, sulky synths become rejuvenated with a verve that is as danceable as anything you’re likely to hear this year. With a bass line that pounds, it’s both a hit-tune and a mission statement as potent as Solonas’s: S.C.U.M. are not coiffured pretenders, they are a band to be taken seriously. The song and the album closes with Tom Cohen repeating the cryptic refrain, ‘Awaken me, walk me through’ – a sure sign of the boldness with which they will attack the future, and a rallying call to the listener: London has a few more hipsters, and you will dance to them.