That Petrol Emotion? Do these people mean to tell us oil spills speak directly to the human heart? You might guess you’re not dealing with mainstream music here. But watch out. Chemicrazy smells like a breakthrough album, the kind that might draw this partly Northern Irish, partly American, and wholly manic band up onto the pop charts.
If that’s what happens well, watch out again. Any contract between commerce and the underground involves compromise on both sides. That Petrol Emotion has songs — ”Hey Venus,” ”Sensitize” — so ready to take on the challenge of pop radio they sound positively dizzy. But the band also has dual lead guitars, blasting licks corrosive enough to skin enamel off your teeth.
If That Petrol Emotion does inch its way up the charts, pop culture will have opened its arms to those corrosive guitars; people with conservative taste might think that would be like spilling oil all over their favorite bay. Once you get used to them, though, the corrosive guitars can sound catchy. Nearly every Petrol song has its own sonic Christmas stocking, disgorging surprises that range from subterranean tremors to queasy dance grooves that make me think of razor blades whirling on edge.
The lyrics seem twisted both in syntax and sense. Here’s a sample (from the song with the queasy dance groove, ”Blue to Black”): ”Whisper words into my mouth and bite/Coming up for air and to suffocate delight.” Pop culture may be learning to swallow such strangled images — and just keep dancing anyway. B+