VUKOVI @ The BOILEROOM, Guildford, United Kingdom
Janine Shilstone and Vukovi demand your attention. Coming March 10th, alongside a full UK tour, Vukovi’s self-titled debut album is the definitive snapshot of their Technicolor wonder to date. Produced by longtime collaborator Bruce Rintoul – “nobody pushes me quite like Bruce” says Janine – and released on LAB records, its twelve songs take in themes of individuality, drug abuse, depression and suicide. “The record might sound quirky,” says Janine. “But there are many darker notes in there…”
Opener ‘La Di Da’ you will know, as it debuted as a single last year. Written on Garageband by Janine when drunk, and partly inspired by the Joker and Harley Quinn (from Batman) relationship Janine was obsessed with as a comic book loving teen, “the song portrays an abusive relationship unbeknown to the victim,” says the singer. “There are a lot of emotions throughout the song. There’s vulnerability, and there’s resistance. It took time to come together, and it had to live on the back burner for a while. But one night I gave in to the niggling that kept demanding I go back to it. I remember the moment it came together; me and Hamish (Reilly, guitars) in my flat drinking pretentious cocktails, laptop, tiny amp, guitar…” Incessantly giddy, intoxicatingly catchy; the end result more than rewards the toil.
Of course, a band with a singer like Janine - one with lungs that could propel rocket ships to the moon - deserve a torch song to close their album. Only in Vukovi’s case, naturally, it’s a different kind of torch song, like a Disney Animated Classic banger dipped in liquid LSD. “It’s a total curveball for sure,” laughs Janine. “We wrote it years ago, but we’ve always been unanimous in saying that it had to be on the album. It’s about dying love. That person might not be alive, or no longer here, and yes – I did always imagine it on a Disney film!” There is of course the addition of Hamish’s spindly distorted coda, darting from note to note like a spider dropped on a stove. “I made Bruce cry when I was doing vocals!” adds Janine. “Then I went to listen to the playback of the recording and felt this overwhelming urge to cry too. I felt my eyes watering. Then Bruce turned around to ask me something and we both burst out laughing…”
Vukovi are a band never short of colour. Never lacking a change in tone. There’s introspection here, yes. There’s beauty, sure. But there are songs like ‘And He Lost His Mind’ too, which is as fun as rock music has ever allowed itself to be. A big, bouncy, neon daubed earworm that bores itself into your brain and gobbles up on your serotonin. There’s ‘Boy George’, a former single with a guitar sliced through it like a chainsaw through a piñata. And, if you’re going to call a song ‘Bouncy Castle’, chances are that it’s not going to be an acoustic weepy. Vukovi truly excel here, coming on like Paramore span around and around and around until they’re very dizzy and just about ready to hurl up something… wonderful.
This is a record made up of many, varied portraits of one of Britain’s most exciting and most unique new bands.